SEATTLE - It was eight weeks ago that the Orioles were here last, leaving this Pacific Northwest city with Rafael Palmeiro's place in history and the team's spot in the standings seemingly secure.
Palmeiro had his 3,000th hit and the Orioles were just one game behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in American League East after a four-game split with the Seattle Mariners at the time.
Just who - Palmeiro or the team he plays for - has taken a bigger fall?
Without Palmeiro, who is at home in Texas rehabbing injuries and trying to keep from becoming any more of a distraction after his steroid suspension, the Orioles lost for the 15th time in 20 games last night, falling, 3-2, to the Mariners before 27,429 at Safeco Field, and watching the potential game-tying run get thrown out at the plate in the eighth inning.
Jay Gibbons homered in the ninth to cut the lead to 3-2.
Longtime Orioles nemesis Jamie Moyer (12-6) kept the visiting team scoreless for seven innings before Brian Roberts hit an RBI double in the eighth, an inning that ended with Roberts getting thrown out at the plate by left fielder Jamal Strong trying to score on Miguel Tejada's single.
It appeared that Roberts had gotten his hand on the plate before he was tagged on the back by Mariners catcher Yorvit Torrealba, but home plate umpire Adam Dowdy felt otherwise. Dowdy's call prompted Roberts to leap in the air and then spike his helmet near the umpire's feet, an act that amazingly didn't earn an ejection for the normally mild-mannered second baseman.
Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo was thrown out protesting the call, his first career ejection. The Mariners (61-79) scored an insurance run in the eighth on a wild pitch by Jorge Julio, as Moyer remained unbeaten this season at Safeco Field.
Orioles starter Erik Bedard (6-7) took the loss, and is now winless since Aug. 9.
Moyer had help from both his defense and the opposition. Center fielder Jeremy Reed made an outstanding catch at the wall in the seventh inning, robbing Javy Lopez of an extra base hit. The Orioles also ran themselves out of a big inning in the fourth.
The Orioles fell behind immediately last night. Bedard, who had walked 12 batters in his past three starts coming in, resorting to a form that plagued him last season, started the bottom of the first by handing out a free pass to Ichiro Suzuki.
He got two outs and had two strikes on Seattle's Richie Sexson but couldn't finish him off. Sexson lined a 3-2 pitch in the left-center-field gap, splitting both Eric Byrnes and Luis Matos. Suzuki scored without a throw and Sexson pulled into second.
It was the last sight that Perlozzo wanted to see - the Orioles falling behind to a pitcher that historically dominates them.
Moyer, a one-time Oriole, entered last night 15-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 27 career games against the Orioles. Only former Oakland Athletics starter Tim Hudson, who is 9-1 against the Orioles, has a better winning percentage against them.
And Moyer, 42, who this season became the oldest American League pitcher to reach double-digit wins since Nolan Ryan did it at age 44 for the 1991 Texas Rangers, has been unbeatable at home this season.
The lefty entered last night 8-0 with a 2.73 ERA in 14 starts this year at Safeco Field, a statistic that Mariners manager Mike Hargrove was at a loss to explain.
"It's one of those things where you don't look the gift horse in the mouth," said Hargrove. "I don't know why that is. It is a big ballpark."
Moyer retired the first nine Orioles before giving up back-to-back singles to Roberts and Melvin Mora in the fourth. But the Orioles chose another poor time to commit a base-running blunder.
With runners on first and second, no outs and the Orioles' top hitter, Tejada, at the plate, Mora broke for second, apparently thinking a hit-and-run was on. If it was, Roberts didn't get the message because he remained planted on second base. The play resulted in Roberts getting tagged out in between second and third and Mora not even advancing to second.
Visibly annoyed, Perlozzo, who spent part of his pre-game address with the media talking about the importance of playing good baseball more so than even wins and losses, removed himself from the top step of the dugout. It was as if he couldn't watch anymore and who could blame him?
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/1090 AM
Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (13-9, 4.97) vs. Mariners' Jeff Harris (2-2, 3.52)