This is how twisted and tattered the Baltimore Orioles' bullpen situation has become: Locked in a close game with the Florida Marlins in the second half of an interminable doubleheader, the Orioles lost with their struggling former fifth starter on the mound in relief, then brought in their $4 million-a-year co-closer to mop up a 5-3 loss.
"We've been here 13 hours," said weary Manager Ray Miller at the end of an exasperating day in which the Orioles were swept to drop their record to 21-36. Florida won the rain-delayed opener, 2-1, with a run in the ninth.
The Game 2 loss, in front of 13,003, came after the Orioles scored three runs to tie the game in the top of the eighth only to give up two in the bottom of that inning. It completed a terrible night against the Marlins, whose $18 million payroll is a little less than what the Orioles pay Albert Belle and Scott Kamieniecki.
Belle is the $13 million slugger who has become a bottomless drain in the middle of the Orioles' lineup, which managed only one run in the first 16 innings of the doubleheader.
And Kamieniecki is the 35-year-old former quality major league starter who just arrived from Class AAA Rochester, and is now trying to resurrect his career as a reliever.
Kamieniecki (0-3), pitching in the majors for the first time since May 13, tossed a scoreless seventh in relief in Game 2, and the game moved to the eighth in a 3-3 tie. But Kamieniecki opened the eighth by giving up a single to Dave Berg -- his fourth hit -- and an RBI triple to Tim Hyers, a utility player who has five extra-base hits in his last two starts.
Miller left Kamieniecki in for one more batter, and Bruce Aven raked an RBI single to left. Only then, down two runs, did Miller bring in Mike Timlin, who until two weeks ago was the Orioles' unchallenged closer.
In the top of the ninth, Cal Ripken led off with a pinch-hit single in just the fifth pinch-hit appearance of his career and first since Aug. 30, 1981.
But the game ended with Jeff Conine fouling out and with .342-hitting Harold Baines standing on deck. In two close losses, the Orioles never got Baines to the batter's box.
Orioles right-hander Jason Johnson, making his third start since being called up from Rochester, brought a gaudy 9.31 ERA into the game, but held the Marlins to only one run over the first five innings.
However, Johnson has shown a tendency throughout his career to fade in the later innings, and tonight he opened the sixth inning by giving up a leadoff single to Berg and an RBI double to Hyers. With Kamieniecki getting ready in the bullpen, Miller stayed with Johnson, who gave up a one-out RBI single to Preston Wilson, making it 3-0.
Still, Johnson produced the first quality start this season by an Orioles' fifth starter, a group that also includes Doug Linton, Rocky Coppinger and Kamieniecki.
Tonight, Johnson fell victim to the Orioles' maddening case of selective offense, which seems to strike only in those games in which an Orioles starter pitches well.
The Orioles' offense came to life only after he had departed.
Five straight hits to open the eighth inning -- including doubles by B.J. Surhoff and Conine -- plus a throwing error by Marlins right fielder Mark Kotsay, led to three Baltimore runs, tying the game at 3.
However, Conine made a costly base-running mistake. Representing the go-ahead run, he got caught in a rundown off third base on Mike Bordick's grounder to third.
In the first game, which was halted twice by rain delays totalling 2 hours 29 minutes, the Orioles lost when left-hander Jesse Orosco walked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
Timlin was tagged with both a blown save (his fifth) and another bitter loss. Timlin (2-5) allowed a game-tying sacrifice fly in the eighth and a leadoff single to Bruce Aven in the ninth.
After Orosco walked Hyers and hit Berg with a pitch to load the bases, he got ahead of Luis Castillo 1-2. Ball two was a backdoor slider just off the inside corner. Ball three came on a disputed checked swing. And ball four was not even close, almost hitting Castillo.
Starter Mike Mussina left after the second rain delay, which came during the top of the sixth, holding a 1-0 lead.
Had the game been called after the second rain delay, the Orioles would have won a 1-0 game on Surhoff's solo homer in the fourth off Ryan Dempster.
"Everything I feared happened," Miller said. "I lose my starter after five innings, then have to sit here for 19 hours in a monsoon with basically three pitchers to use to cover four innings."
The loss marked the third start in a row -- and the fourth in the span of a month -- in which Mussina was the pitcher of record in a game the Orioles were leading in the eighth or beyond. And every time, he failed to get the win.
"The whole year has been frustrating," Miller said. "We have Moose all lined up, and he's on top of his game. . . . It's a shame, an absolute shame. He's on top of his game right now. He should have 10 wins."
CAPTION: (Photo ran in an earlier edition) Albert Belle and Marlins' Kevin Millar watch Pro Player Stadium ground crew go to work in fourth inning. The first game of the Orioles' doubleheader ended too late to be included in this edition.
CAPTION: Orioles second baseman Jeff Reboulet throws off balance to first base after the force on Marlins' Cliff Floyd to get Kevin Millar and complete the double play.