BALTIMORE, SEPT. 3 -- The Baltimore Orioles out-Ripkened Seattle's Griffeys today, but that's where their winning ways ceased. The Orioles' defeats are beginning to blur into one another these days, so similar was this afternoon's 6-2 loss to the Mariners to those that have filled virtually every date on the calendar for the past month.
Once more Baltimore was behind early, watching Seattle build a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning on Harold Reynolds's two-run home run. And again the Orioles showed few signs of being able to overcome any deficit.
They made another pitcher shine, as Mariners starter Matt Young improved to 7-14 with a seven-inning, five-hit, two-run effort. They left runners on base and they botched plays afield, so much so that the Labor Day crowd of 23,981 at Memorial Stadium devoted most of its energy to exasperated booing.
The losses "all seem like they're running together," Manager Frank Robinson said. "They all seem like a carbon copy of the previous game. . . . Whenever you look up, you're talking about another loss."
At least the Orioles held the manpower advantage in today's family feud, as their three Ripkens -- infielders Cal Jr. and Bill, plus coach Cal Sr. -- outnumbered the Mariners' Griffeys, outfielders Ken Sr. and Ken Jr. As far as could be determined by Baltimore's public relations department, the gathering represented the most members of two families to be in uniform for a major league game since three Cruz and two Alou brothers were on hand for a St. Louis-Montreal matchup in September 1973.
"They had us outnumbered, so Pops and I had to go after it," Griffey Jr. said after he and his father combined for three hits. "This is a matter of family pride, you know."
The Griffeys were part of the early undoing of rookie starter Anthony Telford. The worst of the 24-year-old right-hander's three big league starts came in the form of a two-inning, three-run struggle that stemmed from an uncharacteristic inability to get the ball over the plate consistently.
"I just couldn't throw strikes," he said. "That was it. I couldn't get the ball to go where I wanted it to. You're going to have days like that. The real good pitchers survive them. Today I didn't."
Telford (1-2) walked two batters in the first inning but yielded only an unearned run on first baseman Mickey Tettleton's misplay of Griffey Jr.'s grounder. The Mariners finished Telford with three straight hits and a walk leading off the third en route to a 3-0 lead, and their cushion increased to 5-0 with Reynolds's blast in the right field bleachers two innings later off Bob Milacki.
That was more than enough to send Baltimore to its fourth straight defeat and ninth loss in 10 games. The Orioles were held to fewer than four runs for the 16th time in 20 contests, and their one hit in six at-bats with men in scoring position left them seven for the last 64 in such situations.
They've totaled 80 runs in 27 games and 19 in the last eight. They fell to 60-73 and 15 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the American League East. A month ago the Orioles were 53-53 and 4 1/2 games off the AL East lead. Seattle improved to 66-69.
"I just tried to get ahead of hitters, and the early lead didn't hurt," said Young, who surrendered uniform No. 30 to Griffey Sr. last week and became the first major league pitcher to sport No. 1. "I wasn't trying to strike anyone out. I was just trying to make them hit the pitch I wanted them to hit."
The recent warnings of Robinson and General Manager Roland Hemond have done little to reverse the Orioles' fortunes. Robinson insisted his club hasn't yet been reduced to playing merely for pride -- "we were only three games out of third place beginning the day," he said -- and contended he has seen improvement in concentration if not execution.
But the downward spiral continues.
"Little things happen to us, and we don't overcome things," Robinson said. "It's costing us ballgames."
The primary target of the fans' disenchantment today was Tettleton, a catcher who was playing his fifth major league game at first base. His every move at the position drew boos -- as did his three strikeouts that boosted his season's total to 142 -- but Robinson defended him.
"No one expects Mickey Tettleton to be a Gold-Glover at first base," he said. "He only misplayed one ball. . . . It's totally unfair for them to be booing someone who's not playing his regular position."
There were encouraging signs for the Orioles. Milacki pitched well in his first outing since July 30, showing few ill effects of the strained right shoulder that put him on the disabled list. He escaped a two-on, no-out jam after taking over for Telford in the second. The only blemish was Reynolds's homer.
And third baseman Craig Worthington had a two-run single off Young -- who boosted the durability string of the team's starters to 47 outings in 52 turns of working at least into the seventh inning. Worthington also had an error on Jeff Schaeffer's routine bouncer in the second.
"We've got to just keep hammering away at it," Worthington said. "This can't continue forever, can it?"