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Sloppy start controlled Milacki's fate against Mariners


SEATTLE -- On the surface, the final score of the Orioles' 11-4 loss to Seattle last night would indicate that Bob Milacki was totally ineffective.

He wasn't. He probably deserved a better fate, but the big righthander knows he helped seal his own.

"How many times do you see me hit a guy?" asked Milacki, who plunked Edgar Martinez to start the first inning. "Then I walk the next guy [Harold Reynolds] and commit a balk. That cost me three runs."

All three came in the first inning, and denied Milacki any margin for error later in the game. When he left with one out and a runner on second in the seventh inning, the score was 4-4. That's when the new bullpen alignment failed miserably.

Against two lefthanders (Jeff Ballard and Paul Kilgus), the Mariners sent six straight batters to the plate who are either lefthanded or switch-hitters. In the case of the three switch-hitters, all noticeably weaker from the right side.

All six of those hitters reached base safely -- on four doubles, a single and a walk. The result was a seven-run inning.

"After the first inning, Bobby threw the ball real good," said manager John Oates. "With first base open [after a double by Greg Briley], I thought it was time to turn some of those [switch] hitters around and get Bobby out of there with a good taste in his mouth."

If Milacki (6-5) left with a good taste, it was at the price of a bitter loss. After walking pinch-hitter Tracy Jones intentionally, Ballard very unintentionally threw a wild pitch (which bounced through the feet of catcher Chris Hoiles) and then walked Omar Vizquel.

jTC "It's one of the little things we keep talking about," said Oates. "The teeny little things you've got to do. We didn't block a changeup and that changed the complexion of the whole inning.

"You can't say the wild pitch caused seven runs, but it took the double play out of order, caused us to bring the infield in, and probably changed the way we pitched [to Vizquel]."

Successive two-base hits by Dave Cochrane, Reynolds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Pete O'Brien turned the inning into a double nightmare for Oates, Milacki and the Orioles.

* DUBIOUS DISTINCTIONS: Last night marked the 30th time in 99 games that the Orioles fell behind by at least three runs before the fourth inning.

It was also the eighth time in the last 22 games that they've taken a lead beyond the fifth inning and lost.

* THIS 'N THAT: Juan Bell accounted for the Orioles' first two runs with his first major-league home run. He celebrated by jumping and skipping between first and second base.

Oates came from the dugout to argue a call at first base for the first time last night. He debated umpire Larry McCoy, who called Leo Gomez out on a slow roller to third on which Martinez made a spectacular play. Immediately thereafter, Hoiles singled and Bell homered.

Mike Flanagan was bothered by a slight back spasm while pitching against Oakland Sunday, but said he was recovered yesterday.

The Mariners clinched the season series by winning for the seventh time in 10 games against the Orioles. When Mike Schooler pitched a scoreless ninth, it was the 16th straight scoreless inning by the Mariners' bullpen against the Orioles.

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