Mariners’ bullpen folds in 7-4 loss to Orioles

BALTIMORE — Jarrod Washburn isn’t afraid to admit what he is and what he isn’t as a pitcher.

What he is, is a strike-throwing lefty with so-so stuff and plenty of guile and competitiveness. What he isn’t, is a lefty with that one plus-power pitch to put hitters away when he needs to most.

Never was it more evident than on Friday in the Seattle Mariners’ 7-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

Washburn labored and scrapped to make it through five full innings, needing more than 100 pitches and a little help to do so.

“It’s the story of my career,” Washburn said. “I get two strikes on a guy and I don’t have anything to make them swing and miss at. Then it’s foul ball, foul ball, foul ball and pretty soon you’re at 100 pitches.”

But even after the seemingly endless run of eight- and nine-pitch at-bats to Orioles hitters, Washburn still walked off the field with the Mariners down just 3-2. It probably should have been tied, but a home run by Kevin Millar that curled between the left-field foul pole and the 333-foot mark in the fifth inning gave the Orioles the lead. The homer didn’t look to go more than 333 feet six inches.

“I didn’t think Millar hit it well enough to go out,” Washburn said. “He just reached out on a change-up and hooked it down the line. But it made it just (far) enough.”

Even then, it wasn’t all that displeasing to Washburn after he was lifted from the game.

“I got five innings out of it, and it was ugly, but when I came off the mound we still had a chance to win,” he said.

But with a six-man bullpen that’s already without J.J. Putz, manager John McLaren needed Washburn to go a little deeper into the game.

“You have to move guys up in the bullpen with J.J. not being there,” McLaren said.

With a healthy Putz, McLaren admitted he probably would have gone with Sean Green in the sixth inning to replace Washburn. But he simply couldn’t.

“We’re putting some guys in different roles right now,” he said. “It’s something we have to do. We move everybody back and have to move some people up is what it amounts to.”

Consequently, McLaren tried to squeeze a few innings out of normal long reliever/spot starter Cha Seung Baek. But the move only helped the Orioles’ lead to grow.

Baek served up a solo home run to Ramon Hernandez, who had three other hits in the game, in the sixth inning and a two-run blast to Melvin Mora to start the seventh. He was lifted for Ryan Rowland-Smith after allowing three runs on the two homers and failing to get an out in the seventh.

Rowland-Smith promptly allowed a double and single and was lifted for the recently recalled Roy Corcoran. The little right-hander threw a wild pitch, allowing another run to score and push the lead to 7-2, but then held the Orioles scoreless the rest of the way.

Still, thanks to the Mariners bullpen, the damage was done. A five-run deficit was simply too much to overcome for a Mariners team that didn’t hit well for the first eight innings.

Adrian Beltre’s two-run home run was one of four hits the Mariners mustered off the hardly heralded quartet of starter Steve Trachsel (1-0) and relievers Dennis Sarfate, Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker.

It wasn’t until the ninth, when the Mariners faced reliever Greg Aquino, that they mustered any more offense. Raul Ibanez led off with a single and Richie Sexson crushed a home run over the center field wall to cut the lead to 7-4.

After a Beltre pop-up, Mike Morse doubled to right in his first at-bat of the season, which prompted Orioles manager Dave Trembley to bring in closer and former Mariner George Sherrill.

But the brief rally, and the fully-clothed, non-streaker — who ran onto the field from left field, touched the right-field foul pole, then sprinted back to center field where he was grabbed by a policeman in the bottom of the ninth inning — only prolonged what became Sherrill’s second save as an Oriole and the Mariners’ second loss of the season.

“We came back, but it just wasn’t a very good game,” McLaren said.

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