"He's having quality at-bats," said manager Dave Trembley. "We just need to kind of spread that around to the other guys in the lineup to make it a little bit easier on ourselves. Because right now, we're not doing that."
The Orioles (24-30) could've had more offense, but fate and misfortune conspired against them. Aubrey Huff hit an apparent two-run home run in the first inning and rounded the bases before the umpires decided it had gone foul. An instant replay review confirmed that call, and both Huff and Trembley agreed after the game.
"It's been one of those series where I've felt like I hit the ball really good," said Huff, explaining the backdrop to his frustration. "There have been some balls where I've thought that in any other park I might have some homers, and then you hit that one and it goes foul. ... It's part of the game. They got it right. It was foul."
"I just thought it was a little bit strange," added Trembley. "After I looked at it, it was a foul ball, but [first-base umpire] Chris [Guccione] called it fair. They all got together and [home-plate umpire] Tony [Randazzo] told me that Mike [Winters], who is the crew chief and at third base, saw it went foul. I said, 'Hey come on, if you can see it from over there, at least take a look at it.' He was good. He said 'We'll take a look at that.' That was that."
The Orioles also ran themselves out of a couple of rallies, with Nolan Reimold getting picked off at first base in the fifth inning and Huff getting picked off third in the sixth. Huff was also caught stealing on a missed hit-and-run in the ninth inning, a play that happened moments before Gutierrez hit the game-changing shot.
"That's just a stupid rookie mistake by a veteran guy," said Huff of the pickoff. "There's no reason for me to be off the base that much. If [Matt] Wieters gets a hit, I'm scoring anyway. Maybe the reason I was off so far was in case there was a wild pitch, but in that situation, a 2-2 game, you can't get picked off on that. It was really, really stupid."
Seattle (26-28) scored two runs on an early home run by Beltre and threatened to break the game open in the seventh, but Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen was able to work out of a bases-loaded jam. Beltre came back up in the ninth after two intentional walks and hit a hard grounder past Cesar Izturis at shortstop.
The game really changed, though, on the Gutierrez drive to center field. Adam Jones made a long run and leapt at the warning track, but the ball eluded his glove and bounded off the wall. Gutierrez made it into third just ahead of a throw from the outfield, and Beltre knocked him in to seal the win and avoid extra innings.
"I saw it was hit good and I know it's a big park," said Jones, talking his way through the Gutierrez liner. "If we had been in Camden Yards, obviously that ball would be out, but we were in the Northwest. You never know when a ball here is hit in the gap. You've just got to run them down until they hit a fan's hand."
Jim Johnson, who had worked a scoreless eighth inning, took the loss for the Orioles. But in the aftermath, Johnson (2-3) earned a hearty compliment from Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu
"Johnson has absolutely great stuff," said Wakamatsu after the game. "I mean, it's 96 and dropping off the table. And to have an at-bat and battle and give your team a win is a credit to Adrian."
The Orioles went 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position during the three-game series, and Trembley said he was disappointed that his team couldn't take advantage of a few scoring opportunities.
"It was a situation where we beat ourselves. ... I think that's the part that is the hard pill to swallow," said Trembley. "We hit-and-run three different times. Lined out to right, double-play ball back to the pitcher. Hit-and-run again and swung through it. Had the bases loaded and [one] out and hit into a double play. That's baseball."