Driskill begins climb back, eager to forget his 1-3 July

With 7.72 ERA since break, he makes it to 8th vs. Jays

July 25, 2002|By Travis Haney | Travis Haney,SUN STAFF

When Orioles starting pitcher Travis Driskill takes his next turn Monday at Tampa Bay, the 30-year-old rookie will assuredly be glad of one thing - well, two things.

First, after 11 starts since late May, that he finally gets a shot at the last-place Devil Rays, who are hitting .244 as a team. And two, that his tumultuous month of July is at last drawing to a close.

Driskill dropped to 1-3 for the month - and 6-4 overall - after a 5-2 loss yesterday to the Toronto Blue Jays; he's 0-3 with a 7.72 ERA since the All-Star break.

In his two previous starts, Driskill hadn't made it through the sixth inning. Yesterday was a better outing for the right-hander.

The game was tied at 2 in the eighth when Driskill bowed out after allowing leadoff singles to Blue Jays shortstop Chris Woodward and third baseman Eric Hinske. The Orioles' bullpen couldn't hold the heart of the Toronto lineup back. The Blue Jays scored three runs in the inning, giving the team another win over the Orioles and Driskill yet another loss, his second in six days to Toronto.

This one didn't hurt as bad as last week's drubbing he received at SkyDome (four innings, eight hits, five earned runs), but it's a loss just the same, Driskill said.

"Yeah, we lost, but I'd have to say that this was a step in the right direction from a personal standpoint," Driskill said of his seven-plus innings, the longest he had pitched since he went 7 2/3 innings in a June 5 win over the New York Yankees. The Texan gave up four runs on five hits yesterday but allowed only three hits and one run, Dewayne Wise's bases-empty home run in the fifth, through seven innings.

"You can't pitch much better than that," Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley said. "He gave up the home run and a couple of dink hits in the eighth. When any pitcher pitches like that, they're going to win most of their games."

Driskill had pointed to an erratic fastball as the main source of problems in his past few starts. Yesterday, he said, was different.

"I was able to command it and keep it down," he said. "Overall, I thought I threw the ball well. I'd say since the break, I threw the ball 100 percent better today than I had. At least I felt like I gave the team a chance to win."

In the early going it looked as though Driskill would easily end his drought. He retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced, until Wise, a rookie recently called up from Double-A Tennessee, parked a split-fingered fastball in the right-center-field bleachers.

"As soon as I released it, I thought it was [a good pitch]," he said of the 0-1 offering. "He just came up from Double-A, so he's going to be real aggressive. I felt the split would be good after he'd been swinging at a couple of fastballs, and he got it. It happens sometimes."

Even though Driskill hadn't thrown more than 105 pitches since the middle of June, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he didn't hesitate to send his reliever-turned-starter back out for the eighth inning.

"There was no reason to take him out of the game," he said of Driskill, who threw 94 pitches, 63 for strikes. "He was still throwing the ball well."

When he departed from the mound, two runners on and the game tied, Driskill said with the strength of the Orioles' relievers, he felt he would finish the game with a no-decision, not a loss.

"Anytime any of those guys come in, I'm confident that they can get the job done," he said. "Today was just one of those days."

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