Second-half silence for O's

The Baltimore Sun

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mariners starter Horacio Ramirez looked rattled. He had just failed to cover first base on Nick Markakis' RBI single that gave the Orioles their first lead and then compounded matters by giving up a base hit to Kevin Millar.

The Orioles had strung together three straight wins with the help of some timely hitting, and the situation they were in - men on first and second with no outs in the fourth inning - called for it again. However, Aubrey Huff bounced into a double play and the offense went silent the rest of the way.

That cost them, as Yuniesky Betancourt's two-out double off starter Brian Burres broke a sixth-inning tie and sent the Mariners to a 4-2 victory over the Orioles before an announced 23,128 at Safeco Field.

After Millar's fourth-inning single, Ramirez and reliever Sean Green combined to retire 13 straight Orioles before Corey Patterson's two-out double off George Sherrill in the eighth inning. But Sherrill retired Brian Roberts and then closer J.J. Putz extended his club record with his 29th consecutive save and his 27th on the season.

Ramirez, in his first start since May 24, pitched seven strong innings, allowing just two earned runs and five hits. He retired the last 11 Orioles he faced.

In his first start of the second half, Burres was consistently in trouble, allowing 11 base runners in six innings. But he had done a good job of making a pitch when he needed it until the bottom of the sixth.

After getting Adrian Beltre to hit into a double play, Burres walked slumping first baseman Richie Sexson. He then gave up a single to Kenji Johjima. Sexson and Johjima scored when Betancourt launched a high fly ball toward left-center field.

Left fielder Jay Payton gave chase, but the ball bounced off the top off the wall. The only positive for Burres was that it stayed in the park. However, that wasn't enough to prevent him from falling to 4-4 on the season. He has allowed four earned runs or more in three of his past four starts.

Now, he has to wait to see if he pitched well enough to remain in the rotation. That is hardly a certainty with Steve Trachsel coming off the disabled list later this week and rookie Garrett Olson coming off his first major league victory.

Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki left Sunday's game after being hit on the right thigh by a fastball from hard-throwing Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. But the Orioles were not spared from facing Ichiro, who was in the lineup last night as the designated hitter rather than in center field.

Ichiro has played in 490 of the past 491 games since July 2004. He wasted little time making an impact last night. The All-Star Game Most Valuable Player dropped a double down the right-field line off to lead off the bottom of the first against Burres. Jose Lopez couldn't move him over with a failed sacrifice attempt, so Ichiro stole third, sliding in just ahead of Huff's tag.

His 24th stolen base led to a run as Raul Ibanez's groundout to second easily scored Ichiro for a 1-0 Mariners advantage.

The Orioles answered right back on Ramon Hernandez's second-inning, bases-empty home run, which just got over a leaping Ibanez and the left-field wall. Hernandez's homer, which came off Ramirez's 2-1 pitch, was his fifth of the season, but just his second since June 2.

The Orioles took the lead with a run in the fourth, but they had a chance to do much more against the left-handed Ramirez, who was making his first start since May 24 after struggling with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder.

Last night was an important outing for Burres, who had a forgettable last start. Against the Chicago White Sox, Burres lasted just 1 1/3 innings, surrendering seven earned runs on six hits, including two homers, and a walk.

But given a 2-1 lead, Burres couldn't hold it for even a half of an inning. Guillen hit a one-out double and then scored to tie the game on Sexson's two-out single.

Burres again flirted with danger in the fifth, but struck out Lopez and got Ibanez to line out with men on first and second.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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