As bad as the Baltimore Orioles' pitching has been this season, they can take comfort in the knowledge that somebody's is worse. And on a night when the Orioles' pitching again faltered, they could take comfort in the fact they were facing that somebody tonight.
In a battle of the worst pitching staffs in the American League, the Orioles collected a 14-11 victory over the Seattle Mariners in front of 21,597 at the Kingdome. Seattle scored five runs in the ninth as the game approached four hours.
The victory lifted the Orioles to 4-4 on this road trip, which concludes Wednesday night, and 20-31 overall, and prevented them from falling 13 games below .500 for the first time this season.
Orioles second baseman Delino DeShields was injured in the sixth inning, suddenly clutching his back and falling to the ground behind second base on a double-play ball in which he was not involved. No diagnosis was immediately available.
While the Orioles' team ERA entering tonight was a hideous 5.67, the Mariners' was almost a half-run worse (6.16).
While Orioles starter Juan Guzman was shaky, going only four innings and committing all sorts of pitching atrocities, the Mariners' combination of starter Freddy Garcia and three relievers was worse.
The Orioles broke open the game against Garcia (6-2) and Jordan Zimmerman, both rookies, during an interminable sixth inning, in which the Orioles pounded seven hits, scored six runs and sent 12 batters to the plate, turning a 4-4 game into a laugher.
The Orioles constantly threatened in the early innings against Garcia, who was starting on three days' rest. But the giant vacuum in the middle of their order threatened to suck in the Orioles.
Albert Belle came into the game without a homer in his last 12 games, and with only one RBI in his last 13 games. Three times in the first five innings, Belle came up with runners in scoring position. He failed to get a run home in all three cases, including a strikeout on a slider out of the strike zone with one out in the third inning and a runner on third.
But even Belle got into the RBI act in the Orioles' marathon sixth inning. His RBI double -- just his third double and 13th extra-base hit of the season -- was one of five hits given up in the inning by Zimmerman, who faced six batters in the inning without recording an out. Brady Anderson, B.J. Surhoff, Harold Baines and Will Clark also had run-scoring hits in the inning.
Cal Ripken had three RBI and three hits, including two doubles, and every Orioles starter except catcher Charles Johnson had at least one hit.
Guzman lasted only four excruciating innings, marking the fourth straight game in which an Orioles starter failed to pitch past the fourth inning and putting an extra load on an already overtaxed bullpen.
Guzman was guilty of countless fundamental mistakes. He fell behind in the count. He walked five batters. He ignored base runners, allowing easy stolen bases. Perhaps worst of all, Guzman failed to cover first base on a grounder to the right side of the infield with one out and two runners on base in the second inning.
Although the mental mistake didn't end up hurting the Orioles -- the run that scored from third on the play would have scored even if the out were made, and Guzman coaxed a double-play grounder out of the next batter to end the inning -- Clark gave a look of disdain when he saw Guzman wasn't there, and in the dugout Manager Ray Miller angrily pounded the butt-end of a bat on the ground.
Guzman allowed two more runs in the fourth, which began with Russ Davis reaching first on a third-strike wild pitch by Guzman. Throw in two more walks and a two-RBI single by Ken Griffey Jr., and that was the end for Guzman. In four innings, he threw a whopping 97 pitches, leaving with the Orioles trailing 4-1.
Left-hander Doug Johns (2-1) stopped the madness, giving up only a solo homer to Edgar Martinez in the seventh and earning the win when the Mariners' pitching imploded.
At one point, it was 12-4. Still, Miller took no chances, using three more relievers -- Jason Johnson, Jesse Orosco, Mike Timlin and Arthur Rhodes -- to finish the game, and getting two others warmed up in the bullpen.