Scott Kamieniecki felt better than he threw yesterday. It was a small victory, the type that brings assurances to a manager but doesn't move his team closer to the wild card.
On a day when the Orioles littered the bases with runners, Kamieniecki's first start in two months produced a 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners before 48,365, the largest regular-season crowd in Camden Yards history.
He pitched into the sixth inning, allowing hits to eight of the last 17 batters. If not for some alert defense behind him, the damage would have been much worse.
Then again, if the Orioles (52-52) had made better use of 11 hits, he might have been celebrating more than just his return.
The Orioles were denied their 12th straight win at home, which would have tied a franchise record. They also failed to climb two games above .500 for the first time since May 13 and fell eight behind Boston for the wild card, losing only their second game since the All-Star break (14-2) and their first at home since July 1.
Stranding 11 runners, the Orioles got all their scoring from a two-run homer by Eric Davis in the third inning.
Starting for the first time since May 22, Kamieniecki (2-3) left with the Mariners ahead 3-2 and runners on the corners. A sacrifice fly by Russ Davis off reliever Pete Smith brought in another run charged to Kamieniecki, who threw 79 pitches and allowed nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. His fastball topped out at 89 mph, close to where he was before landing on the disabled list for a second time with a bulging disk.
He constantly found trouble by putting the leadoff hitter on base in his last five innings. One run scored in the third when Rafael Palmeiro dropped the ball as he looked home, settling for the out at first. The Mariners tied it 2-2 in the fourth on a double by Edgar Martinez and a sacrifice fly by Jay Buhner, and they went ahead in the fifth when Joey Cora bounced a single to score Joe Oliver.
"I felt fine physically. I wasn't restricted at all," Kamieniecki said. "I made a lot of mistakes, but give them credit. They manufactured some runs today. I was happy that I kept the ball over the plate and stayed away from going deep in the counts. But I didn't really pitch to the inner half of the plate. I didn't make the adjustments I needed to make."
He also didn't come up with Cora's bouncer, snapping his glove in frustration as the ball went into center field. "I just didn't react. I don't know why," he said. "I have to make that play."
Everyone else behind him seemed to be making them. Cal Ripken handled some tough chances at third, once snagging a vicious liner by Alex Rodriguez that knocked him backward. Jeffrey Hammonds ran down a long drive in left-center field, and right fielder Lyle Mouton marked his Orioles debut by throwing out Davis as he tried to stretch a single in the fourth inning.
"Scott pitched a courageous game for someone who hadn't been out there in so long," Eric Davis said after extending his hitting streak to 13 games.
"I was pleased with Kammy, pleased with his command," said manager Ray Miller. "I thought he was really nailing the outside part of the plate. It looked like he had some kind of flow, probably much more than I expected."
Seattle starter Jeff Fassero (10-6) won for the fifth time in six decisions. Coming off a 128-pitch outing last Sunday, he threw 138 in eight innings yesterday, striking out seven. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh by striking out B. J. Surhoff on three pitches. Surhoff, batting .439 with the bases loaded, also was victimized in the fifth, Buhner making a running catch of his bid for a two-run double. Fassero also got Hammonds to fly out in the eighth after Mike Bordick's two-out triple.
"He was right on the edge of the strike zone and getting the calls," Miller said. "When he got in trouble, he made pitches he had to make."
"We had him on the ropes," Davis said, "but he's a quality pitcher. We just came up short."
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 1: 35 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Mariners' Jamie Moyer (7-7, 3.42) vs. O's Scott Erickson (11-7, 3.83)
Tickets: Scattered singles
Pub Date: 7/26/98