The Orioles rid themselves of Jamie Moyer after last season believing he didn't have the kind of stuff needed to win championships. But, as the world turns, he may be good enough to prevent the Orioles from winning.
If his former employers miss the playoffs by a game or two, Moyer will live with the knowledge that he's personally responsible. Throwing soft stuff and a fastball that snaked away from right-handed hitters, Moyer beat the Orioles for the third time this season, holding them to two hits over the first eight innings in a 10-3 victory last night at Camden Yards.
Moyer's shutout and complete-game bid were spoiled in the ninth when Mike Devereaux led off with a home run and Brady Anderson hit his 38th with a man on. Norm Charlton finished.
The Orioles (67-59) lost a chance to move 10 games over .500 for the first time all year and gain ground on the Yankees -- thumped by California, 12-3, last night -- and the White Sox, who lost, 1-0, in a rain-shortened game against Toronto. The Orioles remained five games out of first place in the AL East and a half-game behind Chicago in the wild-card chase.
The Orioles were managed by bench coach Andy Etchebarren, filling for manager Davey Johnson, who checked into St. Joseph Medical Center with an irregular heart rate. Team doctor William Goldiner said he expects Johnson to be back at work today.
Etchebarren stood in the corner of the Orioles dugout, leaning back against the No. 4, retired in Earl Weaver's honor, mounted on the wall. Etchebarren saw nothing that could've pleased him, least of all the dominance of Moyer, who stifled a team that had averaged 7.6 runs per game in August.
"I knew it was my first big-league game managing, but I've been sitting next to Davey for 4 1/2 months, since spring training," said Etchebarren. "I know pretty much what he likes to do in different situations and I wasn't going to change anything."
The only thing he would have liked to have changed would have been the score. "It doesn't feel too good when you're down 10-0," he said.
Moyer went 8-6 with a 5.21 ERA for the Orioles last year, pitching well in June and July, but otherwise throwing inconsistently. He became a free agent after the Orioles declined to offer him arbitration -- though he would've signed for less than the $1.1 million he earned last year -- and signed with the Red Sox.
He began spring training fighting for the No. 5 spot in the Boston, and ironically, it was a strong performance against the Orioles at the end of March that clinched a spot for him. Moyer pitched effectively for the Red Sox, going 7-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Seattle needed pitching help in late July, and after a deal for the Orioles' David Wells fell through, the Mariners traded for Moyer, who has become, in effect, their ace.
The Mariners, starved for pitching and fading in the AL West standings, needed a win last night, and Moyer came through.
"It feels good to go out and have a good performance for the Mariners," said Moyer, who improved to 10-2. "We're in the hunt. No matter what team I'm on, I have a job to do."
And unlike some pitchers, including Seattle teammate Sterling Hitchcock, Moyer isn't intimidated Oriole park.
"I've pitched here long enough to know a pop-out can be a home run," said Moyer, who has gone 3-1 for Seattle since the trade from Boston. "I've seen some crazy things happen here. Each and every inning my job is go out and put up a zero."
When the Orioles' hitters looked for hard stuff he threw changeups, and when they looked for soft stuff he threw hard, his fastball tailing away from the hitters. If they protected the outside corner, he threw inside, and vice versa. And he threw strikes, allowing no walks. Moyer required one or two pitches in registering 11 of the Orioles' first 24 outs, and three pitches or less for 15 of the first 24 outs. He needed only 80 pitches in the first eight innings, throwing 55 strikes.
Rarely did an Orioles hitter take a full healthy swing at any pitch -- until Devereaux's homer in the ninth -- instead popping the ball up or grounding weakly. The Orioles got their first hit when Chris Hoiles lined a single into center in the third inning, and they didn't get another until Brady Anderson singled in the seventh.
Moyer struggled in the ninth, but by then it was too late.
"I don't know if [Moyer] really lost it or not, but he started pitching a little differently," said Devereaux. "Both homers were fastballs out over the plate, we didn't see much of that earlier."
The Mariners, conversely, had no trouble solving Orioles rookie Rocky Coppinger, pitching against Seattle for the first time.
Joey Cora singled to lead off the game for the Mariners and scored immediately when Alex Rodriguez smashed a double into the right-center field gap. Ken Griffey singled to center, and -- bingo -- three batters into the game the Orioles trailed, 2-0.
It would get much worse, on a night when Coppinger wasn't throwing particularly hard and had difficulty locating the strike zone.
"Rocky was a little Rocky tonight," said Etchebarren. "He hasn't done that too often this year. That was unusual for him. But that's going to happen."
Griffey and Edgar Martinez singled with one out in the third inning, and Griffey scored on a sacrifice fly by Jay Buhner to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. But the Orioles and Coppinger completely collapsed in the fifth.
Griffey singled with one out, and seven more hitters would bat before the Orioles got another out. Martinez singled, Buhner walked, loading the bases, and then Paul Sorrento lifted a high fly to right that barely cleared the scoreboard, right fielder Bobby Bonilla looking up and hoping, somehow, that the ball would stay in play. Seattle's advantage was 7-0 after Sorrento's grand slam.
Mark Whiten singled, and Etchebarren, having seen enough, trudged to the mound to remove Coppinger, calling on Nerio Rodriguez. Dan Wilson doubled, Andy Sheets singled and Cora singled; two more runs scored. Rodriguez flied to right -- he made the second out of the inning, and the first as well -- and Sheets trotted home with the seventh run of the inning.
When Griffey whiffed to close the fifth, the crowd gave a mock cheer.
If Davey Johnson had to miss a game, this was a good one to miss.
Opponent: California Angels
Site: Oriole Park
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Angels' Shawn Boskie (11-6, 4.94) vs. O's David Wells (9-11, 4.96)
Tickets: Sold out
The Orioles' Eddie Murray is two home runs short of 500 for his career. Here's a look at his at-bats last night:
3rd inning: Vs. Moyer. Flied out to center.
5th inning: Vs. Moyer. Flied out to left.
8th inning: Vs. Moyer. Flied out to center.
Pub Date: 8/23/96