The starting pitcher admitted he had trouble focusing on both pitching and fundamental defense. The closer admitted his mental "edge" was not very sharp. The manager railed at them both, threatening fines and calling his team's performance "a joke." And that was the team that won.
The Baltimore Orioles' 14-11 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at the Kingdome was not one of the Orioles' finer moments. While the win improved their record on this road trip to 4-4, it was one of their worst-pitched games of the season.
And the fallout from Tuesday night could still be felt today, from a bullpen that should have coasted but was almost completely wiped out instead, to the lingering sting of Manager Ray Miller's postgame haranguing.
"Eleven pitchers, 28 hits, 16 walks, 4 homers," Miller said, reciting the combined totals for both teams in the nearly four-hour game. "That's a joke. That's terrible. It's embarrassing."
High on Miller's list of targets were starting pitcher Juan Guzman, who couldn't throw strikes during four awful innings and failed to cover first on a ground ball, and co-closer Mike Timlin, who came in to pitch the ninth with the Orioles holding a 14-6 lead but gave up five runs and forced Miller to use a fifth reliever, Arthur Rhodes.
Guzman walked five and gave up four earned runs while becoming the Orioles' fourth straight starter to fail to last beyond the fourth inning. But Miller was more angry that Guzman failed to cover first on a grounder to first baseman Will Clark in the second inning.
"That's going to be the last time that happens on this club without somebody spending some money," Miller said. "That's inexcusable. . . . It's an embarrassment to me and to my staff. You can't excuse mental mistakes. To not be able to do the simple things you learn in high school, that's intolerable."
Miller spoke to his pitchers before tonight's game to discuss the problem and his intention to fine future transgressors. It wasn't the first time this season Guzman has failed to cover first on a grounder to the right side.
"I'm aware of that [problem]. I think too much sometimes about the other things I have to do," Guzman said. "I only have that problem when I'm a little wild. I'm trying to figure out what [pitching] adjustment I need to make. That's when I make mistakes. It doesn't happen when I'm pitching well. . . . As soon as I get into a good rhythm, everything else will take care of itself."
Clearly, Miller would prefer that Guzman be able to work on both.
"That's been his whole history. Everyone tells me you can't count on him," Miller said. "He just didn't cover first. It happens to everybody every once in a while, but it shouldn't happen with any consistency. He's a good kid. . . . But he makes me look terrible and my staff look terrible, and there's nobody who works harder on this stuff than we do."
If Miller had known what would happen once he removed long reliever Doug Johns (2-1), who pitched three solid innings and left after the seventh with the Orioles ahead 12-5, he probably would have stayed with Johns. Jason Johnson gave up a homer to Russ Davis. Jesse Orosco entered to pitch to Ken Griffey Jr., and got him to ground out to end the eighth. Then came Timlin, who lost sole possession of the closer's job last week. He gave up two homers and five runs before Miller yanked him. "I have no answer for [Timlin]," Miller said. "It looked like he wasn't throwing hard. The ball was up, and they hit the [expletive] out of it. . . . I didn't like what I saw."
Timlin, the former Mariners closer, said he doesn't feel bad about the way he threw. "When you come into a game like that, your mental edge is not as sharp," he said. ". . . It wasn't like I was out there heaving it. I threw some good pitches. But I got one or two up."
Orioles Notes: Second baseman Delino DeShields strained a muscle in his lower back in the sixth inning Tuesday night and had to leave the game. He is listed as day-to-day, and will have an MRI exam when the team returns to Baltimore. He was not in the lineup tonight. . . . With catcher Lenny Webster still at least several days away from returning from the disabled list, the Orioles are likely to make a waiver claim for catcher Mike Figga, who will be placed on waivers Thursday by the Yankees.
CAPTION: Mariners' David Bell can't hold the ball as Cal Ripken (3 for 6, 3 RBI) slides into second during Tuesday's O's win.