When the Orioles signed Jamie Walker to a three-year, $12 million deal this offseason, there were eyebrows raised around baseball. To some, it seemed a high price tag for a pitcher primarily known as a left-handed specialist.
But in his first season as an Oriole, Walker has been so much more. He has gotten key outs against both left-handed and right-handed hitters and converted all four of his save opportunities when Chris Ray went to the disabled list.
Last night, the Orioles needed him to get out a key left-hander in the seventh inning, Walker's specialty. But for one of the few times all season, the reliever didn't deliver. Trying to protect a one-run lead, Walker surrendered a go-ahead, two-run homer to Raul Ibanez, and the Seattle Mariners pounded every Orioles reliever who followed in a 10-3 victory that turned ugly for the Orioles in front of an announced 25,060 on a sultry night at Camden Yards.
"He's been tremendous out of the [bullpen] for us in a variety of roles, setting up, situational, closing," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said of Walker. "It's just unfortunate that tonight's game got away from us. It got away from us in a hurry. We had two outs in the seventh, ahead by a run. They got some big hits, obviously."
Walker (1-2) allowed three hits and two runs, the first time this season in which he has faced more than two batters and failed to get an out. Ibanez's homer, his second of the game after he entered last night without a homer in 31 games and 116 at-bats, was just the second homer Walker has given up in 43 innings this season. He had 19 straight scoreless outings entering last night.
Ibanez, who was 3-for-6 with four RBIs, was 2-for-15 with a home run in his career against Walker, but hadn't hit a homer off a left-handed pitcher all season.
"No, it wasn't a good pitch," Walker said. "It was a hanging slider. It was a bad pitch at a bad time. It cost us the game obviously. ... He did his job. I have to have a short-term memory and be ready for tomorrow. Obviously, it didn't work out tonight.
"What I do personally, I [don't care]. We had a chance to win the game and I'm more [ticked] off at myself. I don't [care] about whatever the [heck] streak it was. I try to prepare myself every day and that's the last thing I'm thinking about. I was mad because I gave up the game."
The Mariners (61-49) also teed off on Chad Bradford, who relieved Walker and allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits in an inning. It was a miserable start to a three-game series and a six-game homestand for the Orioles (52-59), who watched the Mariners score the last eight runs of the game and collect 19 hits, the most the Orioles have allowed this season. Eleven of the hits came against relievers.
"Who could foresee that many hits and that many runs were going to be scored later in the ballgame?" Trembley said. "Your feeling was it was going to be a matchup, situational-pitching type game. When it works out, it looks great. When it doesn't, you see what happened."
Before the bullpen blow-up, the Orioles had taken a 3-2 lead in the sixth on Ramon Hernandez's second RBI single of the game.
But the rest of the night was defined by missed opportunities and failure to hit with runners on base. The Orioles had 15 hits, but left 10 runners on base and went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Seattle starter Jeff Weaver, who entered the game with a 2-10 record and a 6.32 ERA, allowed 11 base runners in six innings, but was able to consistently dodge Orioles rallies. He won for the first time since June 25, a span of seven starts.
"At one point in time, I think we had nine hits and two runs. That doesn't add up," Trembley said. "But he made some pitches that kept us off balance and he got out of it."
For much of the night, Steve Trachsel, who has cleared waivers and could be traded, also escaped trouble. He allowed 11 base runners in 5 2/3 innings, but held the Mariners to just two runs while pitching in sweltering heat. He remained winless since June 8.
"That's about as hot as I've been in a long, long time," said Trachsel, who threw 104 pitches. "The grip and all that stuff was kind of tough, especially as the game went along. My location was pretty good, especially early in the game."
The veteran didn't appear to be happy when Trembley came to the mound to remove him after Trachsel loaded the bases with two outs and the game tied at 2 in the sixth and Ichiro Suzuki at the plate.
The move worked out as left-hander John Parrish got Ichiro, who was 3-for-3 off Trachsel, on a come-backer to end the inning. But all four Orioles relievers that followed Parrish - Paul Shuey, Walker, Bradford and Kurt Birkins - allowed runs.
"We're big league players, professionals. I have no excuse," Walker said. "I just hung the pitch. I hung a thousand pitches in my career. Sometimes you get by. That pitch obviously didn't. He did what he gets paid to do. I'll be ready for his [butt] tomorrow, that's for sure."email@example.com