SEATTLE - During one of the night's interminable delays, the Safeco Field sound system blared the theme song from "The Price is Right." If only the audio guy knew how right he was.
Not only did the Orioles play a game last night against the Seattle Mariners, they also conducted auditions for starting pitcher Scott Erickson and shortstop Mike Bordick before a New York Mets special assignment scout. Any question of who wins are quickly giving way to those of who stays and who goes.
Erickson (3-5) didn't help the Orioles' pursuit of a hard bargain. Given a two-run lead, he became the firestarter in an 8-3 loss that extended the sagging team's losing streak to seven games and dropped them 11 games below .500 (30-41) and within a game of last place.
The Mariners sent 19 hitters to the plate - 12 against Erickson - while scoring four runs in the fifth inning and four more in the sixth.
Erickson was eventually charged with seven runs in five plus innings, jacking his ERA to 7.36.
Bordick's display was slightly better, a fifth-inning RBI single in five at-bats but an error on a routine-looking grounder in the fourth inning.
The Orioles' night didn't end with the loss. Manager Mike Hargrove kept the clubhouse closed for more than 20 minutes afterward for his first post-game team meeting of the season. Only the manager spoke.
"I didn't shoot a bullet but I may have lobbed one," said Hargrove, who at least outwardly has remained unfailingly calm during the team's recent slide.
The Orioles dropped to 1-12 on the road since May 30 and already have lost as many games away from Camden Yards this season as they had through July 30 last season. Erickson's start helped hike the team's road ERA to 6.55 compared to 4.57 at home. The Orioles have been outscored 66-36. During the last 10 games the rotation is 1-7 with a 10.19 ERA.
The durable Erickson would represent a needed boost to the Mets' thin rotation and Bordick would give them a credible replacement for Rey Ordonez, lost for the season with a fractured left forearm.
Erickson's trade status will become complicated on July 7, when he acquires enough service time to veto any deal. Bordick is a pending free agent whom the Orioles could deal, then attempt to re-sign later.
Traded together, the two would free the Orioles of more than $11 million in future salary while bringing at least a package of prospects.
The Orioles - and numerous other teams - have been waiting on Erickson since he returned from March arthroscopic surgery to remove bone fragments from his right elbow. Erickson managed four quality starts in his first nine starts but demonstrated inconsistent control, resulting in uncharacteristically high pitch counts and what several scouts perceived as an abrupt drop in effectiveness in middle innings.
Last night offered some encouraging signs, both for the Orioles officials who have discussed Erickson's availability with numerous teams, and for those contenders who think him the critical piece to a postseason push.
Erickson has been here before. After beginning last season 1-8 with a 7.11 ERA, he put on a second-half rush that carried him to 15 wins. However, his hurdle then was flawed mechanics, not a recent injury. Observers noticed in recent starts that Erickson has labored to "get on top" of the ball, causing him to "push" his pitches, usually with imprecision.
Through four innings, Erickson faced only three base runners, one of them after Bordick's error that was immediately followed by a double-play grounder.
Continuing their habit of early offense during this road trip, the Orioles took a 2-0 lead against Mariners starter Gil Meche with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, both on two-out hits.
Albert Belle began the fourth-inning rally with his second single. B.J. Surhoff's ground ball moved him to second and Jeff Conine drilled a line drive to left field. Belle was waved home by third base coach Sam Perlozzo as Mariners outfielder Rickey Henderson charged the hit, bobbled it, and chose to not make a play on Belle.
Playing in place of Charles Johnson, catcher Greg Myers doubled in the fifth inning. Bordick followed with a two-out single to center as Myers chugged around for a 2-0 lead.
Erickson appeared in command by retiring the first two hitters he faced in the bottom of the fifth but then hit turbulence as six consecutive hitters reached against him.
John Mabry began the rally with a single. Second baseman and No. 9 hitter David Bell then crushed his third home run over the Eddie Bauer sign in left-center field to tie the game. And for the seventh time on this losing road trip the Orioles had blown a lead. Normally emotionless, Erickson berated himself and appeared to double over from the shot. His pain only intensified from there as he retired just one of his 10 hitters faced, that one on a slicing drive punished by John Olerud to Belle.
A walk of Henderson, a single by Stan Javier and a distracting steal of third by Henderson preceded Alex Rodriguez pounding a ball to the base of the right-center-field wall for a two-run double that made it a 4-2 game.
The Mariners greeted Erickson with a single, another stolen base and consecutive doubles to open the sixth. Hargrove then made the long walk to summon Gabe Molina into a 6-2 mess.
If a team can be fortunate to escape an inning with only four runs allowed and 10 hitters, the Orioles were that team in the sixth. Brady Anderson took extra bases away from Javier by crashing shoulder-first into the center-field wall. He hit the ground and looked around for the ball before realizing it was in his glove. Bell began Molina's outing with a liner to Belle.
Molina had flown more than 5,000 miles the past two days after being optioned to Rochester then immediately recalled to replace the injured Calvin Maduro. Molina allowed Erickson's inherited runner to score before forcing home one of his own with a bases-loaded walk, the third time this trip an Orioles pitcher has walked home a run.
Hargrove repeatedly has praised his lineup for refusing to wilt after repeated disappointing pitching performances. But the Orioles now look a tired if not disgusted bunch.
Their only bit of remaining fight came in the eighth inning, when Delino DeShields' double was followed by Surhoff's RBI single. It extended the left fielder's hitting streak to 17 games.
Hargrove said the motivation for the meeting was "a cumulative thing." A number of players were surprised only that he waited this long.
"I think in general Grover has been a clear-headed manager who stands behind his players. I think all his players will do the same for him," said Anderson. "The more he talks to us, the better, whether we're winning or losing."
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Site: Safeco Field, Seattle
Time: 4: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Pat Rapp (4-4, 5.67) vs. Mariners' John Halama (6-3, 4.99)