A three-homer breakout in the eighth inning gave the Orioles their most inspirational comeback this season. Beating the Mariners at their own game, the Orioles won, 10-9, after trailing 4-0 before the game's first out.
They didn't find the lead until two outs into the eighth inning when Sunday's foil, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, reached left-hander Tony Fossas for a home run seared to right-center field, the eighth homer of the game.
"That's a great win from behind. We'll take any win we can get. We haven't won a game like that in a long time," said second baseman Roberto Alomar, who continued his offensive tear with four hits, four RBIs and a fifth-inning home run.
For only the third time this season and the first time since April 18, the Orioles won when allowing more than three runs. They did it by answering every Mariners rally with one of their own and scoring 10 runs for the first time in 40 games.
They won with the nomadic Richie Lewis as their starting pitcher. They won despite trailing twice by four runs. They won with Jesse Orosco and Armando Benitez carving up the ninth inning against the middle of the Mariners' lineup.
"It seems to me like we've been on the verge of doing that 40 times this year," manager Ray Miller said.
The Mariners hit four home runs and lost. The Orioles twice trailed by four runs and won. True, it's only one game. But it was a game unlike any other the Orioles have played during a sometimes moribund and always disappointing season.
"That's a great game for us. Hopefully, from now on we'll continue to play this way," said Alomar.
Bumping their record to 26-30, the Orioles crafted a magical eighth inning against an overmatched bullpen. Brady Anderson and Eric Davis homered back-to-back earlier in the inning. Anderson's was a two-run shot to pull the Orioles within 9-8.
Davis' blast followed his near-ejection by plate umpire Al Clark for arguing a called strike. If not restrained by Miller and third base coach Sam Perlozzo, Davis likely would have been ejected. Instead, he crushed Wells' next pitch into the left-field bleachers.
So might last night represent something more than one game?
"You can't make that judgment now," said Davis. "This is something you possibly look back on in 10, 12, 14 games and say that's where it turned. You say that in retrospect. You can't say that right now. We have to make that happen."
Might it say something previously not mentioned about a team accused of lethargy as well as underachievement?
"You can talk about our performance. That's right in front of you and it's been disappointing. But don't talk about this team's character. Everybody in here has been busting his tail," said Anderson. "This isn't boxing. You can't just will your way to a win. If you could, we would be able to turn a losing streak into a winning streak. But it's better to stay composed."
The Orioles have become used to this. Fall behind early. Try to come back. Usually, the rallies have been too short and the bullpen too thin. Though he allowed himself a post-game cigar, Miller insisted it can't become habit-forming.
"You're going to have games like tonight. And you're going to have games where you have to come from behind. But it shouldn't happen to you every night," he said. "That's why I defend the offense. You sit in here and say, 'We need to hit better' but you have to realize every day we have to climb a hill."
The Orioles answered the Mariners' 11 hits with 14 of their own. Mariners DH Edgar Martinez crashed two home runs and first baseman David Segui delivered a first-inning three-run homer among four RBIs. But Alomar answered with four hits, including the first of four late-inning home runs by the Orioles.
Apparently invigorated by recent trade speculation and slights at his desire, Alomar no longer represents the listless hitter that befuddled the club into mid-May. He has become especially dangerous against left-handers, hitting .400 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 70 at-bats. A year ago he was homer-less with only eight RBIs in 118 at-bats vs. lefties.
Palmeiro, booed off the field Sunday against Texas, returned for four hits, including his most influential home run of the season.
Little room was left for subtlety. The Mariners have slugged 10 home runs the past two games and lead both leagues with 94. Last season they broke the Orioles' year-old record for home runs in a season. They remain wedded to bashball.
The situation grew farcical enough for Miller and Mariners manager Lou Piniella to exchange hand signs from across the field. Only Miller could laugh afterward.
"It's just too much duplication. I've got whiplash," said Piniella, who watched Bob Wells and Fossas allow six hits and four runs in four innings. "It's rather obvious this isn't working."
Down 9-6 entering the eighth, Anderson began the comeback with a two-run homer off Fossas. Davis followed and nearly failed to make it through his at-bat. He barked over a called strike.
"I'm no rookie. I can ask a question. I don't need to hear that from him," Davis said of Clark's response to a question of pitch location.
Two hitters later a tie game found Palmeiro, already 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Palmeiro commented to Anderson how effortless he had swung on his home run. Anderson then watched Palmeiro enter the box and settle into a casual rhythm, a contradiction to his forced swings on Sunday.
"He almost looked half-asleep," said Anderson.
One swing, one knowing glance, one telling run. "You don't hit home runs trying to hit home runs," said Palmeiro. "In that situation, I wasn't trying to hit a home run. I was just trying to hit it hard."
No backing down
Every inning the Mariners scored last night, the Orioles responded with runs of their own in the bottom of the inning (home runs in parentheses):
Inn. .... M's .... O's ..... Score
bTC First ... 4 (1) .. 2 (0) ... Sea, 4-2
Third ... 1 (1) .. 2 (0) ... Sea, 5-4
Fifth ... 3 (1) .. 2 (1) ... Sea, 8-6
Eighth .. 1 (1) .. 4 (3) .. O's, 10-9
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 3: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Mariners' Jamie Moyer (3-5, 2.98) vs. O's Doug Drabek (5-5, 5.34)
Tickets: 1,600 remain
Pub Date: 6/02/98