The Orioles' Adam Jones, right, reacts as he is tagged… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
The Orioles have made a habit of turning unheralded opposing starters into virtuosos this season.
After one shaky inning, the Orioles did it again Wednesday night, this time to one of their minor league castoffs who couldn't crack the big league rotation last year.
Seattle right-hander David Pauley, who spent all last season stuck at Triple-A Norfolk, was effective through six innings, and the Mariners' bullpen held on to beat the Orioles, 6-5, in the season finale between the teams with the worst records in the American League. It came a night after little-known left-hander Luke French blanked the Orioles in a 4-0 Mariners win.
"You don't go into it thinking this is a guy you should do this or that" to, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You tip your hat to the fact that [Pauley] gave up two and buckled back down and went out and hung up some zeros. … You see that a lot [from] guys who are unheralded, so to speak, so far, but I don't take anything away from his performance."
The Orioles (42-79) have lost five of their past seven games after winning eight of their first nine under Showalter. It's the club's second consecutive series defeat after winning Showalter's first three series. The loss, before a soggy announced crowd of 11,213, dropped them to 3-6 this season against the Mariners (48-73), who have won a season-high four straight series.
And it came against Pauley, whom the Orioles allowed to leave as a minor league free agent after he was 9-12 with a 4.37 ERA in 27 games for the Tides in 2009. Since being recalled June 27 from Triple-A Tacoma, Pauley (2-4) has compiled a 3.70 ERA in 40 1/3 innings.
"He had a good sinker going today, and he was really using his changeup well to keep you off balance," said Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who caught Pauley with the Tides last season. "He was able to stay down [in the strike zone] for the most part, and he is going to get a lot of ground balls when he stays down."
Wieters chased Pauley in the seventh with a two-run homer to left — the catcher's 10th home run of the season — to close the game to 5-4 and ruin Pauley's shot at a quality start. Wieters' blast was just the fifth hit allowed by Pauley, who has spent parts of 10 seasons in the minors.
The 27-year-old right-hander was charged with four earned runs in six-plus innings, but after giving up two runs in the first, he shut out the Orioles from the second through the sixth. By changing speeds and using his sinker effectively, Pauley, retired 13 straight batters at one point.
"He's got good movement on his ball, he's got late movement and it's tough to pick up at the last second," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. "He made some pitches and we didn't score enough runs to win the game. That's it."
The Orioles nearly rallied against the Mariners, scoring once in the eighth on a wild pitch by Jamey Wright and getting the tying run to second base in the ninth against Seattle closer David Aardsma. But Brian Roberts struck out and Markakis hit a sharp liner that struck Aardsma, who picked up the ball and threw to first for his 24th save of the season.
"Hit a line drive," Markakis said, "but you can't hit it at them."
The Orioles staked starter Jeremy Guthrie to a 2-0 lead after the first, but Guthrie handed it back in the second, courtesy of another big swing from the Mariners' longest name.
Guthrie allowed a leadoff double and an infield single to start the inning before collecting two outs on a diving stab by first baseman Ty Wigginton and a strikeout, bringing left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo to the plate.
Tuiasosopo had a homer and drove in all four of Seattle's runs in a 4-0 win Tuesday. On Wednesday, he smashed an 85 mph slider from Guthrie 372 feet for a lead the Mariners never relinquished. In his first five at-bats against the Orioles this week, Tuiasosopo had two homers and seven RBIs. He had one homer and two RBIs in his previous 71 at-bats this season.
"The most disappointing thing was not winning the game," said Guthrie (4-12). "I had a shot there; I gave myself an opportunity with the strikeout to the hitter before him and just didn't execute the pitch. He hit the exact same pitch yesterday. He proved he can hit it back-to-back nights, and it's my fault for throwing it there."
Guthrie said he didn't have his best slider Wednesday, and, in retrospect, wishes he hadn't thrown it to Tuiasosopo.
"I second-guessed it when I threw it. I shouldn't have thrown it. I didn't feel that pitch in that moment," Guthrie said. "I had already shaken it two or three times in the inning. … Sometimes you get lucky, you throw a pitch you don't feel and the guy pops it up, or you throw it in a good quality spot. But that was one of those times I didn't feel it and didn't execute it. If I could have thrown it low and away, there would have been a different result."
Wieters said he probably should have called for a fastball away in that 2-1 count.