Mark Eichhorn got credit for two saves yesterday -- but only one went into the record book.
In addition to claiming his first official save of the year with four shutout innings, Eichhorn also got an unofficial one in the Orioles' 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners. He saved manager Johnny Oates a difficult decision in the eighth inning, when the presence of Ken Griffey was very much a factor.
The Orioles had a 6-3 lead and the Mariners had a man on base with two outs and Felix Fermin at the plate. Another base runner would have brought Griffey to the plate representing the tying run.
"You want to see me earn my money?" a relieved Oates said after the game. "I would've earned a whole week's pay right there. Do I have [Jim] Poole face Griffey [who is 1-for-7 against the left-hander] or do I let him face Eichhorn [against whom Griffey was 3-for-5 before yesterday]?"
Oates didn't tip his hand, and more important, didn't have to make the decision after Fermin grounded out to end the inning. It was the second crucial at-bat against the Mariners shortstop for Eichhorn.
Two innings earlier, when the score was 5-3, Fermin batted with runners on first and third, one out, and Griffey standing in the on-deck circle. That was Eichhorn's first inning in relief of Sid Fernandez and too early to dictate a pitching change -- but not a possible shift in momentum.
It took him two pitches to escape the sixth-inning jam as Fermin and Griffey hit nubbers back to the mound. In the eighth, Eichhorn needed more finesse and used four pitches before Fermin grounded out to end the inning.
"I didn't want Griffey coming to the plate with the bases loaded [in the sixth] or as the tying run [in the eighth], but I wasn't going to get tricky and try to strike Fermin out," said Eichhorn. "He's one of the toughest in the league to strike out, if not the toughest.
"My thinking was that I had to go with sinkers and get the ball on the ground. If I get the ball up to him, he can take it over the infield."
On the first confrontation, Eichhorn got a bonus when Brian Turang was caught in a rundown, removing the runner from third base. But, while that was potentially the most dangerous, the eighth-inning duel represented a game situation.
When Luis Sojo got an infield hit with two outs, Griffey's presence again was felt by everyone in the park. With Griffey hitting behind him, Fermin is having a career year with a .336 average that included a 2-for-5 performance yesterday.
Armed with the numbers at hand, Oates most likely would have " opted to use Poole against Griffey. But his obvious preference was not to have the game's best player represent the tying run -- against anybody.
Oates got his wish when Eichhorn got his man -- for the second time.