Fine for 5, Loewen unravels in O's loss

Mariners rally past 3-run deficit as rookie shows promise, flaws

Mariners 10 Orioles 5


For five innings last night against the Seattle Mariners, Adam Loewen looked like the pitcher the Orioles hope he'll be one day.

The hulking left-hander used three superb pitches to produce weak swings and softly hit outs. But once he got into trouble in the sixth inning, he reverted to the frustrating patterns that have dragged down his rookie season.

Wasted pitches led to high counts that turned into a string of hits and walks. And in minutes, Loewen had squandered a three-run lead. The most promising start of his young career turned into a 10-5 defeat before 16,620 at Camden Yards.

The loss capped a non-waiver trade deadline day on which the Orioles (48-59) remained intact.

The buzz about potential deals was so prevalent that hardly anyone thought to ask manager Sam Perlozzo what he expected to see on the field last night.

"Let's put it this way." Perlozzo said. "The way we've played the past week, if they've been tense, I wish they'd stay tense because they've played extremely well and not given up."

Loewen's story hadn't changed through his first seven major league starts. His heavy fastball and looping curve made him hard to hit, but he struggled to throw strikes. He earned his first major league win last week in Kansas City. But he needed 95 pitches to get through five innings.

Loewen looked like a completely different pitcher in the early innings last night, throwing his fastball for strikes and mixing in a darting changeup.

He struck out Ichiro Suzuki to open the game and retired the first nine Mariners in order without allowing a hard-hit ball. He gave up a hit to Jose Lopez in the fourth, but his defense quickly bailed him out when Miguel Tejada fielded a weak grounder and flipped to Brian Roberts, who fired to first for a slick double play.

Loewen was right back to perfection in the fifth, striking out Richie Sexson and Eduardo Perez with a mix of high fastballs and tailing off-speed stuff.

Third baseman Melvin Mora made a fine play in the sixth, galloping in to grab a Kenji Johjima roller with his bare hand and throwing out the Seattle catcher by a step. The Mariners built a rally in that inning with consecutive bloop singles. With two outs Lopez drove in the first Seattle run with a sharp single to left field.

And all of a sudden, Loewen looked like an erratic rookie again. He threw fastballs that came nowhere near the strike zone and ran up counts that forced him to throw pitches over the middle. He loaded the bases with a walk to Adrian Beltre and then allowed a hard single to right by Raul Ibanez that tied the game 3-3.

"I tried to put Lopez away and just didn't finish the pitch off." Loewen said. "After that, I just started hanging breaking balls."

Loewen had never reached the seventh inning in the big leagues and it didn't prove kind to him yesterday. He gave up a leadoff single to Perez, who moved to second when Brandon Fahey bobbled the ball in left. Johjima singled in the go-ahead run and drove Loewen from the game. The rookie received an ovation from the crowd, but he looked somber in the dugout as pitching coach Leo Mazzone spoke with him.

"I felt good, like I was cruising through the first five." Loewen said. "This was a tough one. Especially with a 3-0 lead, I felt like it could've gone the other way."

Reliever Julio Manon, who had just been recalled to replace the injured Kurt Birkins, allowed another run when Mora bobbled a grounder that would have ended the inning.

The Mariners blew the game open in the eighth with home runs by Sexson and Johjima off reliever Eddy Rodriguez.

The Orioles had beaten Mariners starter Gil Meche twice this season.

Roberts ripped Meche's second pitch 410 feet onto Eutaw Street for his third home run of the season and second in four days. Roberts was the first Oriole to reach Eutaw Street this season. Mora also homered in the first to put the Orioles up 2-0.

The right-hander recovered with three strikeouts in the second for the Mariners (52-53). But the Orioles got to him again in the third when Jay Gibbons drove in Mora with a broken-bat single.

Nick Markakis brought the Orioles within one with a lead off homer in the seventh.

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