SEATTLE - Orioles pitcher Daniel Cabrera could have done several things yesterday to avoid the Seattle Mariners' decisive seventh inning.
He could have thrown a full-count strike to Bryan LaHair and not issued a leadoff walk, a critical lapse in a tie game. He could have fielded Jeff Clement's ground ball that bounced right past him and ended up as an infield single. All he needed to do was throw a ball near the plate to Yuniesky Betancourt, who was more than willing to give the Orioles an out with a sacrifice bunt. Instead, Cabrera fired four straight balls to load the bases with no outs.
As a result of Cabrera's struggles and a key error on shortstop Alex Cintron, the Mariners scored three times in the seventh while getting one ball out of the infield en route to an 8-4 victory before an announced 33,334 at Safeco Field.
The win was just the Mariners' second against the Orioles (53-57) in 10 tries this season as Seattle averted a series sweep. The Orioles, who start a three-game set tonight with the major league best Los Angeles Angels, fell to 10-25 in series finales and 2-16 on Sundays.
"We walked people at the end of the ballgame," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "You just can't do that."
Cabrera, who squandered two one-run leads, hadn't walked a batter until he put LaHair on base to lead off the seventh. Cabrera fully expected Clement, the next batter, to bunt, and he seemingly wasn't ready when the Mariners' catcher bounced the first pitch back up the box. Second baseman Brian Roberts made a diving stop, but his flip to Cintron at second base was off line.
"I should catch that ball," Cabrera said. "That's what makes the big inning right there. ... I was feeling good the whole game. I don't know what happened in the seventh."
After Cabrera issued the four-pitch walk to No. 9 hitter Betancourt, Trembley brought in reliever Jamie Walker to face Ichiro Suzuki. Walker got Suzuki to hit a ground ball, but it went right up the middle. Roberts' only play was at second base, but Cintron couldn't handle his throw.
That gave the Mariners a 5-4 lead. Two batters later, Raul Ibanez grounded a single to right field off Walker to score two runs and all but seal the game.
"I was trying to get a ground ball," Walker said of his matchup with Suzuki, who is now 6-for-16 against him with five RBIs. "A punch-out would have been great, but [you're looking] for a ground ball in that situation with the infield in. ... If he hits it right at somebody, we're probably still playing."
The Orioles' offense also shared some of the blame. They tallied nine hits off Mariners starter Carlos Silva, who had lost 12 of his previous 13 decisions, but pushed across four runs. The Orioles tied the score with two runs in the second inning on RBIs by Luke Scott and Guillermo Quiroz.
They still had runners on second and third with one out, but Cintron lined out to third baseman Adrian Beltre, who then touched third to double up Scott.
Brian Roberts gave the Orioles the lead with a solo homer in the third. However, Cabrera gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning. Again in the sixth, the Mariners answered Kevin Millar's RBI single with a game-tying solo homer by Jose Lopez that hit the left-field foul pole.
Then came the seventh, where the Orioles lost any chance of completing the series sweep.
"The wheels just came off that one inning," Millar said. "Two out of three is good. You keep taking two out of three ... on the road and you'll be all right. It's tough to sweep series on the road."