- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

BALTIMORE Jeff Cirillo made sure the Baltimore Orioles' impressive comeback was in vain.
The Seattle Mariners' ninth-place hitter delivered the decisive blow in the ninth inning last night as the visitors defeated the Orioles 5-4 before 30,287 at Camden Yards. The first baseman drilled a double down the left-field line off Jorge Julio (2-3) that scored Desi Relaford, who began the inning with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice by Dan Wilson. Relaford stole third before Cirillo's clutch hit.
Cirillo's heroics negated a strong game by Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson, who allowed three earned runs in eight innings. Seattle closer Kazuhiro Sasaki retired the Orioles in the ninth to earn his 12th save.
Former Oriole Arthur Rhodes (3-1) picked up the win by pitching one-third of an inning in relief.
The Orioles battled back after trailing 4-0 in the second on an unearned run, a two-run homer by Jeff Conine and the first home run of the season by Brook Fordyce. The reserve catcher's solo shot came on the first offering by reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the seventh and ended a run of 11 straight games in which the Seattle bullpen did not allow a run.
"It was just a fastball on the plate," said Fordyce, whose last homer was Aug.17, 2001. "I didn't hit it great. I didn't remember what hitting a home run was like."
Conine put Baltimore in position in the sixth as he continued his offensive fireworks. The first baseman delivered his eighth long ball after hitting two home runs and five RBI Wednesday in a 10-5 win over Oakland.
This time Conine (37 RBI) blasted an 0-1 fastball 378 feet to left center off Seattle starter Rafael Soriano. The blow came following Gary Matthews Jr.'s one-out double into the right-field corner.
Things looked bleak for the Orioles as rookie Rafael Soriano outdueled Erickson through five innings. Soriano, who made his second career start, left with a 4-3 lead after Conine's blast. The 22-year old Dominican allowed two earned runs and six hits in his 5-1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Erickson, who started the 334th game of his career, looked like a nervous rookie with control problems early. The 34-year-old was directly responsible for much of the damage as he allowed two walks and allowed a runner to reach on his own throwing error in the first two innings.
Seattle pulled away with a three-run rally to build a 4-0 lead in the second. Relaford led off with a walk, and Wilson singled to left. Erickson hurt his own cause when Cirillo bunted toward third. The pitcher picked up the ball and threw wide of first, forcing Conine to come off the bag.
Ichiro Suzuki then delivered a single that bounced off second base into center field, scoring Relaford. Marc McLemore's fielder's choice scored Wilson. Ozzie Guillen made it 4-0 with an sacrifice fly to right.
The Orioles got on the board in the sixth. Brian Roberts led off with a walk. Matthews grounded towards first, but Soriano couldn't handle the ball and was charged with an error. The miscue allowed Matthews to be safe and Roberts to advance all the way to third. After Conine flied out, Tony Batista walked to load the bases. Jay Gibbons got the RBI as a fielder's choice scored Roberts.
Hargrove said he considered bringing Erickson back in the ninth, but didn't want to take a chance on his ace pitcher stiffening up after a long layoff when the Orioles' rally failed in the eighth.
"[Julio] is 23 and in his first full year in the big leagues," said Hargrove, talking about the difference in experience between the two clubs. "We just have to stay with him. We're a big league team. We show up to play. We don't offer any excuse and don't ask for any. But we are in a different stage of where we are than [the Mariners] are."
Baltimore center fielder Chris Singleton left the game in the third inning with heat exhaustion.


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