- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001


BALTIMORE The Seattle Mariners haven't been in position to lose a road series too often this season, and even when a team has a chance to take two of three from the team with baseball's best record, not one has actually broken through to do it.
And that fact made yesterday's game at Camden Yards all the more difficult for the Baltimore Orioles to swallow.
Having already won the first game of the weekend series Friday night, the Orioles held a three-run lead in the sixth inning yesterday afternoon and had numerous opportunities to pad it.
Instead, Baltimore twice left the bases loaded and allowed the Mariners to score all their runs with two outs in a disheartening 6-4 loss before a crowd of 45,668.
"That really hurts when that happens, and it certainly hurts doubly so when you're playing a team the caliber of Seattle," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, whose team could still hand the Mariners their first road series loss of the season with a victory today. "When you get the chance to bury them, you've got to do it. We just didn't do that today."
Having built an early lead by virtue of a Brady Anderson three-run homer in the second, Baltimore had an opportunity to blow the game open when it loaded the bases with one out in the third against starter Paul Abbott.
But Abbott (14-3) struck out Cal Ripken and got Tony Batista to meekly foul out to the catcher, ending the inning and stripping the Orioles of a golden opportunity.
Given an identical opportunity two innings later bases loaded, one out Baltimore managed to push across just one run, on Abbott's wild pitch. Batista then grounded out to third (he finished the day stranding six runners) and, following an intentional walk to Anderson, catcher Brook Fordyce struck out looking.
Despite their missed chances, the Orioles were still en route to a second straight win over the Mariners (97-39), who, after 136 games, have the seventh-best record in modern baseball history. However, starter Jose Mercedes, after opening the game with 5-2/3 strong innings, came unglued with two outs in the sixth. It ultimately led to his third straight loss.
Mercedes (7-16), whose time in a Baltimore uniform could be running out, took a hard grounder from Bret Boone off his leg and allowed Boone to reach with an infield single. Back-to-back doubles by Mike Cameron and Stan Javier brought two runs across, and a subsequent walk to David Bell spelled the end for Mercedes.
"Jose was outstanding all day long, and then with two out in the sixth … the roof just caved in," Hargrove said. "It's just one of those things. I don't know that Jose was tired, I just think they all of a sudden starting finding holes and got in position to take the game."
Left-hander B.J. Ryan relieved Mercedes and allowed Javier and Bell to complete a double steal of second and third without a throw. Ryan then walked pinch-hitter Jay Buhner, who made his first game appearance of the season after undergoing surgery to repair the arch of his left foot, to load the bases. That brought Japanese rookie sensation Ichiro Suzuki to the plate with Baltimore clinging to a 4-3 lead.
"I still think that B.J. Ryan has the stuff to get Jay Buhner out, especially with him coming back off the [disabled list], if he throws strikes," Hargrove said. "He just didn't do that today."
Ichiro, the AL's expected Rookie of the Year, worked the count to 2-1, then crushed a line drive back up the middle that careened off Ryan's left leg and skipped into shallow right field. By the time anyone could get to the ball, two runs had scored and the Mariners had the lead for good.
Seattle added an insurance run in the ninth off reliever John Wasdin, and four Mariners relievers combined to hold the Orioles hitless over the last four innings. Kazuhiro Sasaski pitched the ninth to earn his 40th save.
That left Baltimore needing to win today's series finale against Seattle rookie pitcher Rick Bauer will make his major league debut for the Orioles to end the Mariners' quest to become the first team in history to go the entire season without losing a road series.
"No one talks about it," Cameron said. "But everyone knows about it."

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