SEATTLE, AUG. 14 -- Dave Johnson still was ailing tonight, but the wince was teamwide for the Baltimore Orioles. Even the Seattle Mariners' outs were loud as they battered Johnson and reliever Jeff Ballard early and often and rode Matt Young's five-hit pitching to a 7-1 victory before 11,239 at the Kingdome.

Johnson admitted before the game that his strained lower back continues to ache, and it showed. He didn't survive the third inning, serving up two home run pitches to the notably powerless Greg Briley to augment his major league-leading home run yield. Ballard wasn't much better, walking four in 3 2/3 innings to match his sum from 16 previous innings of relief work.

The Mariners, who totaled 32 runs in 12 previous games this month, accumulated 10 hits and seven runs in the first four innings. Ken Griffey Jr. had three of Seattle's 13 hits, Alvin Davis provided two, and Briley had two hits and three RBI.

Young had little trouble in making such handiwork stand up. He improved to a deceiving 6-12 and extended a remarkable string of durability among the Mariners rotation by subduing the Orioles with a combination of well-spotted fastballs and well-timed breaking pitches. Baltimore avoided being shut out for a fifth time this season when Tim Hulett singled home Mike Devereaux in the ninth.

"It's easy to pitch with a lead," Young said. "You just go after hitters. I was challenging them, and they weren't hitting it until the ninth."

The Orioles, whose two-game winning streak ended, fell to 56-59, including 3-5 on this western road trip that will end here Thursday. They fell seven games behind Boston in the American League East.

The Mariners, fourth in the AL West beginning the day, are 59-58. They broke a three-game losing skid and beat the Orioles for the fifth time in eight meetings this year.

Johnson continues to be plagued by the lower back strain that forced him out in the sixth inning of his 11th victory 12 days ago. He showed few ill effects during his last start, a loss to the Oakland Athletics Thursday, but he said tonight he still feels pain at times.

"It's not completely gone," said Johnson, who won three of his previous four starts. "It bothers me sometimes. It's not a sharp pain, but it's a dull, persistent pain. It lets me know it's there."

Leg cramps accompanied the back injury at the outset, but he said that longtime problem was absent since before his start in Oakland. "I can live with the way I'm feeling," he said. "It's not perfect, but it's good enough to be out there."

His other frequent nemesis -- the home run pitch -- was not missing tonight, however. He began the day with 24 homers surrendered, the most in the major leagues. By the time he departed after giving up five extra-base hits and four runs over 2 1/3 innings, he led Houston's Mike Scott by three home runs.

Johnson refused to use his back as an excuse. "It wasn't a lot of pain, but {the back} was real stiff," he said. "I wasn't able to get the ball down. The pitches are up in the zone, and you can't get away with that against big league hitters. My game's down and in, down and out, and I wasn't able to do that."

Harold Reynolds led off the Mariners' first inning by doubling off the right field wall. Briley, who had one home run since May 24, followed with a towering shot into the seats in right for his fourth homer of the season and a 2-0 lead.

Johnson escaped the second with the aid of a snappy double play shortstop Cal Ripken started, but he failed to last the third -- which ended with Seattle ahead by 6-0.

Reynolds popped up on a leadoff bunt attempt, but Briley touched off an explosion with his second homer of the night. This one was not as deep as the first; in fact, it was shallow enough that second base umpire Tim McClelland originally ruled the ball had struck the top of the scoreboard set into the wall and bounced back onto the field -- which probably would have been a double.

But after Mariners Manager Jim Lefebvre raved for a few moments and the umpires consulted, Briley was awarded a home run. Television replays were inconclusive as the whether the ball struck the scoreboard or the railing beyond the wall. Orioles Manager Frank Robinson protested briefly and mildly, predictably to no avail.

He said the umpires told him ground rules here dictate a ball that hits the top of the scoreboard is a home run. Seattle officials indicated otherwise.

"How can it be a home run?" Robinson said. "It didn't leave the ballpark. How can there be a ground rule like that?"

He was back on the field shortly thereafter, removing Johnson after Griffey's sharp double to the right field corner. Ballard -- who allowed only four earned runs in his previous 13 relief appearances -- took over, but he was treated just as rudely.

Before the inning was over, the usually precise left-hander had given up three walks and two runs more. He began by walking Davis, then served up a run-scoring double to Jeffrey Leonard. One out later, he walked Edgar Martinez intentionally, then Scott Bradley on four pitches with the bases loaded.

Omar Vizquel's followed with a single to make it 6-0. It became 7-0 an inning later on a walk to Briley and single by Griffey that bounced crazily in right field and allowed Briley to score from first.

Meanwhile, the Orioles were being baffled by Young, who has pitched better than his record indicates. The left-hander entered the game having pitched into the seventh inning in 12 of his last 13 turns, and he has been the victim of acute nonsupport of late; he had worked seven innings or more with two earned runs or less in each of his past five outings, but was 2-2 in those games. He had a 2.43 ERA in his seven no-decisons.

The Orioles let him off the hook in the first inning, and he breezed through the early going from there. Dave Gallagher's single, Young's error on Steve Finley's sacrifice try and a walk to Ripken loaded the bases with one out.

Up stepped Mickey Tettleton, he of the six RBI in his previous 38 games. One double play grounder later, Young was back in the dugout. Beginning with Tettleton, he retired 13 of 14 batters until Gallagher's sixth-inning single, yielding only a walk to Tettleton.