BALTIMORE, APRIL 24 -- An afternoon full of plot twists and pitiable baseball ended with the Baltimore Orioles' bullpen still in disarray.
It ended with Brad Pennington seemingly having guaranteed himself a trip back to the minor leagues, with Ken Griffey Jr. still the king of the warehouse and with the Orioles stinging from a 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners here before 46,640.
The Orioles fell to 10-7 and heard boos often from the sellout crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This was a game that Seattle (6-11) tried to give them, and they couldn't take it.
The Orioles took a 6-3 lead into the eighth inning, but starter Jamie Moyer quickly loaded the bases -- and then reliever Pennington quickly unloaded them, allowing four runs within a span of two pitches.
The first was a run-scoring wild pitch, and the second was a too-fat fastball which Griffey deposited well over the tall wall in right field -- and only 25 feet short of the B&O Warehouse -- for a three-run home run.
"I guess he hit it about as well as anyone's ever hit a ball here," Pennington said.
That was not quite true, but close. It was the closest that a ball hit during a game ever has come to striking the warehouse on the fly. Griffey's blast was measured at 438 feet.
He joined Lee Stevens, Mickey Tettleton and Kevin Reimer as the only players to hit balls on the fly onto the Eutaw Street corridor in front of the warehouse during games. Griffey's was the third-longest homer at Camden Yards, behind a 452-foot shot by Eric Davis and a 450-foot drive by Juan Gonzalez.
Griffey, remember, is the only player ever to have conquered the warehouse. He hit a fly ball off the building during the home run hitting contest here July 12, the day before the All-Star Game. Today he gave the floundering Mariners just their second road victory in 11 tries this season. John Cummings got the victory in relief, and Bobby Ayala notched Seattle's first save of the season.
"He gave me a pitch I could handle," Griffey said in what should qualify as one of the understatements of the year. " ... We've been fighting ourselves. Everyone wants to do too much. You can lose ugly, and you can win ugly. Today we won ugly."
The Mariners, baseball's worst defensive team so far this year, committed three errors and permitted three unearned runs.
Seattle took a 1-0 lead on Griffey's RBI double off Moyer in the first, but errors by shortstop Rich Amaral and third baseman Mike Blowers helped the Orioles to a three-run second.
Baltimore extended its lead to 5-1 in the third, aided by an errant throw by Seattle catcher Dan Wilson. Greg Pirkl's two-run homer off Moyer in the fourth pulled the Mariners to within 5-3, but Chris Hoiles had a leadoff home run for the Orioles in the sixth against Seattle starter Greg Hibbard.
But Moyer began the eighth by yielding a base hit to Darren Bragg on a ground ball off the pitcher's glove. Amaral drew the only walk that Moyer issued, and Torey Lovullo's single to right field loaded the bases.
Manager Johnny Oates decided that Moyer was done. He'd decided earlier to try to give overworked left-handed reliever Jim Poole the day off. So lefty Pennington was his only option against the left-handed Griffey. "We're trying to find out who can get people out and who can't," Oates said.
They apparently have their answer with Pennington. Oates met with General Manager Roland Hemond and assistant GM Frank Robinson immediately after the game. None would reveal the particulars of the conversation. But it seems probable that Pennington will be demoted to Class AAA Rochester on Monday, with right-hander Mike Oquist the most likely to be called up.
Pennington's earned run average is 12.00, and he's been one of the major culprits among an Orioles relief corps that has an ERA of 7.46.