BALTIMORE, SEPT. 2 -- Rookie left-hander Jeff Ballard was back tonight, this time as the designated replacement for Mike Flanagan and the guy who would help jump-start the Baltimore Orioles into a new era of respectability.

Then again, maybe not. After spending three months fine-tuning his game at Class AAA Rochester, he returned to the majors to last only two innings and get the Orioles started on another loss, 8-6, to the Seattle Mariners before 22,418 at Memorial Stadium.

Many of the fans booed and jeered the Orioles (60-73), who blew an early 4-1 lead, lost to the Mariners for the eighth time in 12 games and fell to a season-high 20 games out of first place.

In Ballard's last major league start, June 8, he lasted two-plus innings and allowed five hits and three earned runs. There wasn't much progress tonight as he again failed to get an out in the third and allowed eight hits and six earned runs for the night.

Five straight Mariners reached base against him to open the third inning; the last was Mickey Brantley, whose two-run double gave Seattle the lead for good, 5-4.

Ballard (2-4) was followed by Jack O'Connor for three innings, Mark Williamson for three and Tom Niedenfuer for one as the Mariners got 11 hits. Brantley had three RBI, Dave Valle (18 for 38 against Baltimore this season) had three hits and Phil Bradley scored three runs.

"I don't think he was too pleased with himself, and I don't think I was too pleased with him," Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said of Ballard. "He threw too many bad pitches. The last three games, our young guys have all done that, and the mistakes have hurt us. The sooner they learn, the better it's going to be.

He said Ballard had major league stuff "and has had it right along. But he's got to learn to make each pitch count. We're going to keep after him. We're not giving up."

Seattle's Mark Langston (16-10) was almost knocked out in the first inning, then recovered nicely to allow nine hits and six runs in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out nine, bringing his major league-leading total to 216.

He trailed, 4-1, after one inning, then shut the Orioles out the next six.

Three relievers combined to pitch the final 1 2/3 innings. The last was Jerry Reed, who got Ray Knight on a grounder to shortstop with the tying runs in scoring position in the ninth for his fourth save.

Knight has hit .208 in his last 63 games, his average falling to .257.

The Mariners scored a run off Ballard in the first inning, but Pete Stanicek (two for four) opened the bottom of the inning with a double. Bill Ripken singled to right, and Cal Ripken Jr. scored Stanicek with a single. Eddie Murray singled to score Bill Ripken, and after Knight struck out, Larry Sheets scored Cal Ripken Jr. with a single for a 3-1 lead. Murray went to third and scored on Lee Lacy's sacrifice fly for 4-1.

But Ballard, who left a runner on third in the second, couldn't hold the lead. Bradley led off the third with a single, Gary Matthews walked and Valle singled for one run. Jim Presley doubled to right for another, and when Brantley followed with his two-run double, Ballard was gone. O'Connor got out of the inning, but not before Harold Reynolds' grounder brought home Brantley for a 6-4 lead.

Then in the fourth, Bradley singled and stole second. Matthews grounded out, and Valle was intentionally walked. Presley struck out, but Brantley doubled to left for a run, and O'Connor's second wild pitch scored Valle to make it 8-4.

The Orioles made it a game with two runs in the eighth. Sheets singled home a run, chasing Langston, and Mike Hart hit a run-scoring double off Edwin Nunez for the final run.