BALTIMORE, SEPT. 4 -- The Baltimore Orioles were undone tonight by the Griffey they didn't expect it from and another efficient effort by a Seattle Mariners pitcher.
The latest of their miseries was a 7-2 loss before 22,315 at Memorial Stadium, and the only new wrinkle to an evening of familiar misfortunes was Orioles Manager Frank Robinson revealing after the game a potentially dramatic change in the thinking of the club's management.
Baltimore's wearying downward spiral continued as the Orioles lost for the 21st time in 28 games since they last were at .500 -- leaving them 60-74, one loss shy of their 1989 total. They've scored 82 runs in their past 28 games, tallying three runs or fewer in 17 of their last 21 contests.
As Robinson concluded his nightly search for solutions, he was asked whether he believes the Orioles -- owners of baseball's lowest payroll and most reluctant in recent years to part with money in the race for free agents -- will be willing to spend more freely in the offseason to come.
Perhaps shockingly, he insisted his understanding is that the team will open its coffers more widely.
Robinson said he had not discussed the issue with Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, but that his impression from President Larry Lucchino and General Manager Roland Hemond is that "the club will be much more willing to spend money than it was last winter.
"I think we're going to go out and spend some money, and spend it on quality free agents," he continued. The team's front office is "up there analyzing like me, maybe realizing that we need a little more help offensively than we once thought we did."
Robinson was reminded that the Orioles also have been unwilling to part with draft picks in recent years to enter the free agent market. He countered: "I think if a guy is available who can help us, we will be willing to sign him."
As has been the case virtually every day for the past month, the Orioles demonstrated tonight their need for help. Ken Griffey Sr. had his first three-hit game of the season and drove in three runs to support the seven-inning, four-hit performance of Erik Hanson and help send Baltimore to its fifth straight loss -- tying a season high -- and 10th defeat in 11 games.
The elder Griffey -- 40 years old and winding down an 18-year career that overlapped the playing days of Robinson by four seasons -- hit only .206 in 46 games this season with the Cincinnati Reds. He went on the voluntarily retired list to help the Reds out of a roster jam, but later was switched to the waiver list.
The Mariners last week made him and Ken Griffey Jr. the first father-son teammates in major league history, and Griffey Sr. has made the acquisiton worthwhile thus far. The seventh-oldest player in the majors has five hits in 13 at-bats for Seattle, and he was the catalyst for the Mariners' win tonight with a bases-clearing double off Pete Harnisch in the second inning that provided a 3-0 lead.
"He's done a great job for us," Mariners Manager Jim Lefebvre said. "That was a great at-bat he had. The reports we got said he could still play, which is more important than having a father and son on the field to draw fans."
Baltimore got to within 3-1 on Bill Ripken's third-inning home run, but Seattle stretched its advantage to 6-1 with a three-run, five-hit sixth and never looked back.
Hanson improved to 13-9 with a laborious-but-effective 135-pitch outing that left Mariners starters with a string of having worked at least into the seventh inning in 48 of their last 53 turns. Keith Comstock finished with two perfect innings of relief.
Baltimore's pitching had been solid of late, but the wildly inconsisent Harnisch (10-10) reversed that trend by struggling through 100 pitches in 5 1/3 innings while yielding seven hits, three walks and six runs.
Dave Johnson, removed from the disabled list earlier in the day and assigned to bullpen duty at least temporarily, followed Harnisch to the mound in the sixth and surrendered run-scoring hits to Omar Vizquel and Harold Reynolds.
Even Curt Schilling, who had not been charged with a run in his previous 14 appearances and 20 innings, gave one up -- albeit a meaningless, cosmetic one long after Seattle (67-69) had put matters to rest.
As has been his tendency lately, Harnisch was in constant trouble. He surrendered singles to both Griffeys in the first inning but escaped unscathed. He was not as fortunate in the second, when he walked three batters and Griffey Sr.'s line drive to right-center field went for a two-out, game-breaking hit.
Orioles Notes: The team received a favorable result tonight in a Collier County (Fla.) referendum that promises to go a long way toward assuring the Orioles of completing negotiations to move their spring training site to the city of Naples in 1992 or '93.
The club seems intent on doing that, but only if the city funds a facility at which the Orioles can both train and play their games. The team will be based in Sarasota next year and will play games at various locations. It previously played its home spring contests in Miami.
The subject of tonight's vote was a tourist development tax that would be levied on hotel guests. The referendum passed with a 68 percent favorable count.
The vote for the tax doesn't ensure Naples of landing the Orioles, but an unfavorable vote almost certainly would have killed the city's chances. . . .
Tonight's crowd made the Orioles the eighth major league club to pass the 2 million mark in attendance. They did so one game behind last year's record pace.