Driskill, O's top Seattle, 3-2

In first big-league start at 30, he holds Mariners scoreless for six in win

May 26, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - With his parents watching on television in Austin, Texas, Orioles pitcher Travis Driskill took the mound last night for his first major-league start looking nothing like his counterpart from the Seattle Mariners.

Rafael Soriano was also making his first major-league start, but the similarities ended there. Soriano is a streamlined, 22-year-old prospect from the Dominican Republic with a hard fastball and a big upside.

Driskill is more meat and potatoes. At age 30, he spent more than nine seasons in the minors waiting for this moment, knowing it might be the only big-league start he ever makes.

Yet there was Driskill, with eyeglasses and a gritty look, keeping the Mariners scoreless for six innings. The Mariners finally chased him in the seventh, but by then the Orioles had done enough damage against Soriano to even this series with a 3-2 victory at Safeco Field.

Seattle's 10th sellout crowd of the season (45,854) watched as the Orioles won for the first time in 15 tries at Safeco. It was their first victory in Seattle since June 1, 1999, in their second-to-last game at the Kingdome.

"Anytime you can beat the Mariners, you've got to feel good," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "They're one of the top teams in the game today. They're extremely difficult to beat, especially for us here at their place."

A bases-loaded walk by Jay Gibbons gave the Orioles a first-inning lead, and Jeff Conine added a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

Bret Boone led off the seventh inning with a home run against Driskill, trimming the Orioles' lead to 3-1, and that's when Hargrove went to his bullpen. Driskill allowed just four hits and one walk.

The Orioles withstood a furious rally by the Mariners in the eighth inning as Seattle trimmed its deficit to 3-2 and had the bases loaded with one out. Boone lofted a little flare to shallow right field, and Gibbons bounced a perfect throw to catcher Geronimo Gil to nail Jeff Cirillo at the plate.

"I knew I was going to catch it; I just wanted to get rid of it as quick as I could," Gibbons said. "I threw it on the run, not even worried about getting set up."

Buddy Groom recorded the final five outs to earn his first save of the season and preserve the win for Driskill (2-0), as Hargrove left closer Jorge Julio standing in the bullpen.

On Tuesday night, when Driskill earned his first major-league victory, the first thing he wanted to do was call his wife, Natalie, in Baltimore. But the game was in Oakland and went 14 innings, so by the time Driskill made his call it was after 3 a.m. in the East, and Natalie was asleep.

Driskill's next call went to Austin, where his parents, Melvin and Marcia, were still awake. The next day, Driskill learned he had earned a chance to make his first major-league start. Melvin and Marcia told him they'd be watching.

When Groom got the final out last night, Driskill was the first one out of the dugout to greet his teammates.

"I wouldn't say it was nerve-racking," Driskill said of watching the final three innings. "I have complete faith in the bullpen, that they're going to do their job. And the defense stepped up. Gibby made a strong throw to the plate, and Geronimo blocked it and preserved the win."

Hargrove said the Orioles will need another spot start on Saturday against the Mariners at Camden Yards. "The way [Driskill] pitched, I think we'd try to save him for that," Hargrove said. "He certainly made a huge case again tonight."

It looked like it might be a long night for Soriano in the first inning, when he walked three consecutive batters, with the third one bringing home the Orioles' first run.

Melvin Mora opened the inning with a double in the right-center gap, and Brian Roberts moved Mora to third with a sacrifice bunt. Then came the walks, to Chris Singleton, Conine and Gibbons.

The next batter was Tony Batista, and instead of making Soriano find his control, Batista swung at the first pitch, fouling out for a big second out.

Marty Cordova ended the inning with a strikeout, taking a 3-2 fastball at the knees for his fifth strikeout in as many at-bats.

Cordova struck out in all four of his at-bats Friday night, and things didn't get much better in the fourth inning, when he grounded into a double play. By that point, Soriano was cruising.

Only one Oriole reached between the second and fifth, and that was Batista on an error.

Soriano began his professional career as an outfielder, but the Mariners turned him into a pitcher in 1999. He was 2-3 with a 2.63 ERA at Double-A San Antonio before being promoted to Seattle on May 8.

Singleton finally delivered the Orioles' second hit of the game with a one-out double in the sixth inning. That extended Singleton's hitting streak to a career-high 14 games.

Conine followed with his fifth home run of the season, crushing a 2-0 fastball over the left-field wall for a 3-0 Orioles lead.

Two batters later, Batista singled, and Mariners manager Lou Piniella went to his bullpen. Soriano (0-1) allowed three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Driskill didn't even allow a runner to reach second base for the first six innings. Suzuki singled in the first inning, but Driskill picked him off first base. Carlos Guillen singled to start the fifth, but Gil caught him trying to steal second.

Orioles today

Opponent:Seattle Mariners

Site:Safeco Field, Seattle

Time:4:35

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (5-0, 1.94) vs. Mariners' Jamie Moyer (3-2, 4.64)

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