SEATTLE — SEATTLE -- Pitchers don't figure to be in the best frame of mind anyway when the Orioles and Seattle Mariners, the two most prolific home run-hitting clubs in the American League, get together.
But in Seattle's 9-8 victory Wednesday night, when the lead and the momentum swung back and forth constantly before Russ Davis' game-winning single off Randy Myers in the bottom of the ninth, the pitchers were absolutely outraged.
Orioles ace Mike Mussina and Seattle starter Sterling Hitchcock both departed the game screaming at plate umpire Ray DiMuro, a rookie, angry about what they thought was an incredibly shrinking and inconsistent strike zone.
Mussina's anger surfaced three batters into the game: Mussina threw a 3-2 curveball to Ken Griffey that broke over the plate, too high, according to DiMuro. Mussina then fell behind Edgar Martinez 2-0 before Martinez bashed a two-run homer, and Jay Buhner hit Mussina's very next pitch far over the left-center-field wall, as well.
Through all the carnage, Mussina yelled at DiMuro, and after Buhner's homer -- the second time this season he and Martinez hit back-to-back homers against Mussina on back-to-back pitches -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson jogged out of the dugout in an attempt to calm his pitcher. Mussina stood behind the mound and glared at DiMuro.
Mussina settled down somewhat, and the Orioles came back from a 4-0 deficit to take a 7-4 lead. Hitchcock was relieved in the top of the seventh, and as he left he gave DiMuro an earful, the rookie umpire standing stoically and taking it all, as he did all night.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mussina's anger resurfaced on several close calls. And after the Mariners knocked him out -- Griffey doubling after DiMuro again refused to call a close pitch strike three on the All-Star center fielder -- Mussina screamed at the umpire. Catcher Chris Hoiles felt compelled to stand between the pitcher and the rookie umpire, and although Mussina never physically confronted DiMuro, he yelled at the ump all the way back to the dugout and then some more after he got there.
Mussina said: "I think after the first inning -- having watched Hitchcock and then what happened in my inning -- the strike zone was somewhat fluctuating."
Johnson said: "Mike got a little excited there in the first."
Mussina: "Whether it's Griffey or Martinez up there, it's tough to throw more than three strikes. . . . I don't want to blame it on [DiMuro]. I didn't pitch that great. I thought I pitched pretty well, take out the first inning. Unfortunately, the first inning counts."
Unfortunately for Mussina, so did the seventh inning. With two outs and two on, the Orioles leading by three runs, Roger McDowell relieved Mussina. Martinez hit a sharp grounder back to McDowell, the ball bouncing off his left shin; McDowell threw home, starting a rundown that resulted in the second out of the inning.
But McDowell was bothered by the contusion, and with Johnson and trainer Richie Bancells looking on, he took several warm-up pitches before saying he was OK to pitch to Buhner. He threw Buhner a first-pitch fastball, Buhner crushed it for a three-run homer, and the score was tied 7-7.
(McDowell is listed as day-to-day for this weekend.)
The Orioles scored in the top of the ninth to take an 8-7 lead, when a ground ball went through Davis' legs at third. However, Cal Ripken, who had hit his fourth homer in two games earlier, bounced into a double play, and the Orioles failed to score any more runs.
That would cost them. Myers came in for the bottom of the ninth, in his first appearance since May 19. Alex Rodriguez grounded out to start the inning, but Myers fell behind Griffey two balls and no strikes before he allowed a tremendous homer that tied the score at 8-all.
Martinez doubled, and the Orioles chose to walk Buhner intentionally. Pinch hitter Brian Hunter singled to left field, loading the bases. But Dan Wilson hit a chopper to third and Bill Ripken threw home for a forceout, Seattle's second out, and the infield and outfield could return to normal depth.
But Davis, whose error had enabled the Orioles to take the lead in the top of the inning, ripped a line drive off the right-field wall, and Buhner trotted home with the winning run.
"I was just missing with my pitches," Myers said afterward. "I didn't feel comfortable out there. I was off two or three inches with all my pitches.
"I was either on or off. . . . It's been 10 days since my last outing. I've had two or three long spells in between pitching. I try to get work in [on the side], but it's just a matter of getting work [in games] or not."
The finish was typical of the Orioles' games vs. Seattle this year. On May 17, the Orioles and Mariners combined for 41 hits, the game ending on a two-out, grand slam by Hoiles that gave the Orioles a 14-13 victory. On May 18, the Mariners hit two homers in a 7-3 victory. The next day, Roberto Alomar hit a three-run homer, as the Orioles came back for an 8-7 victory. Then, on Tuesday, Cal Ripken hit three homers to propel the Orioles to a 12-8 win over Seattle.
Three of the five games between the two teams have been decided by one run, and the losing team has only scored fewer than seven runs once. The Orioles and Mariners have combined for 28 homers in the five games.
Opponent: California Angels
Site: Anaheim (Calif.) Stadium
Time: 10: 05
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' David Wells (3-4, 4.22) vs. Angels' Mark Langston (2-1, 3.65)
Pub Date: 5/31/96