- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

BALTIMORE Buddy Groom knows he didn't make the pitch he needed to against Bret Boone in the eighth inning of yesterday's game at Camden Yards. Groom's 92-mph fastball, while down in the strike zone, was out over the plate, and Boone crushed it over the left-field fence for a grand slam that capped the Seattle Mariners' dramatic 11-8 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
But Groom also knows that while he didn't make a perfect pitch to Boone with the bases loaded, he might never have been placed in that situation had a pair of close pitches to the previous batter been called strikes.
With one out, two runners on and the game tied 7-7, Groom felt he struck out John Olerud on a close 1-2 pitch that was called a ball by plate umpire Kerwin Danley. On his subsequent 3-2 pitch, Groom fired a low and inside slider that again was called a ball by Danley. Olerud trotted to first with the walk, Boone came to the plate with the bases loaded and Groom crouched to his knees in anguish.
"I don't complain about the umpiring, but in that situation, you've got the guy struck out twice," the veteran left-hander said. "That changes the whole way I approach Boone. I could have pitched around Boone to face [rookie Chris] Snelling on deck."
Instead, Groom had to go right at Boone, and the Seattle second baseman delivered with his third career grand slam. The 370-foot shot capped the Mariners' stunning comeback from an early 7-1 deficit and left the Camden Yards crowd of 39,883 booing unmercifully at Danley.
"I'm trying to do what I can to throw strikes, and when I throw a strike I expect it to be called," said Groom, generally one of the most reserved players on the Orioles' roster. "In that situation it wasn't, and that's the way it goes."
Groom wasn't the only one in a tizzy. Once the inning was complete, Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove (who had been complaining about Danley's strike zone all afternoon) began yelling from the dugout and was promptly ejected for the first time this year.
"He was looking to run me from the third inning on," Hargrove said.
Shortstop Mike Bordick, like Groom a typically even-keeled ballplayer, got upset at a called third strike in the bottom of the eighth and also was ejected by Danley.
Several players in the Orioles' clubhouse said afterward they felt Danley's strike zone shrunk as the game went on.
"I just think it could have been more consistent," Bordick said. "And that's what you hope for. I'm sure everybody's out there trying, but when you're out there trying to win a series, you hope for the A-game."
The Orioles appeared on their way to an impressive third win in four days over the AL West-leading Mariners. And unlike the previous two nights, when they needed dramatic late-inning rallies to pull off victories, the Orioles yesterday stormed out to a 6-0 lead after two innings.
Two-run homers by Jay Gibbons in the first and Bordick in the second gave Baltimore a seemingly comfortable lead and plenty of cushion for rookie starter Sean Douglass, who returned to replace Calvin Maduro in the rotation and cruised through the first five innings.
That's when things began to fall apart. Douglass gave up two hits in the sixth and was pulled in favor of left-hander B.J. Ryan. Ryan served up a two-run single to Ben Davis and an RBI hit to Jeff Cirillo that made it 7-4.
Rick Bauer came in to pitch the seventh and proceeded to give up five singles over a seven-batter span though none was sharply hit as the Mariners scored three more runs to tie the game.
Jorge Julio (2-4), usually Baltimore's closer but pressed into eighth-inning service yesterday to aid a taxed bullpen, gave up a walk and an infield single to Ichiro Suzuki (the Japanese star's fourth hit of the game). Groom then entered to face Olerud in the most crucial and controversial at-bat of the game.
The Orioles completed a 12-game stretch against the Mariners and Oakland A's with a 6-6 record, a mild success given their previous performance. That fact couldn't fully take the sting away from yesterday's game, though.
"I think there's a bitter taste in everybody's mouth today," catcher Brook Fordyce said. "We went out there, played good baseball, had a lead. We probably should have won this one."
Hargrove said right-hander Jason Johnson, on the disabled list since April 25 with a fractured middle finger, is tentatively scheduled to make his return Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Johnson would take Douglass' spot in the rotation, though the rookie's solid performance yesterday could keep him in a Baltimore uniform for a bit longer.
Reliever Chris Brock, out since mid-April with right shoulder inflammation, is expected to be activated off the DL in time for tonight's series opener at Yankee Stadium. Seldom-used outfielder Luis Garcia is expected to be sent back to Class AAA Rochester.
Outfielder Luis Matos will begin a rehab assignment at Class A Frederick tonight. Matos is recovering from a broken hamate bone in his left hand, an injury that occurred during spring training.

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