Mariners thwart O's, 7-5

Seattle halts 5-game skid by scoring 2 in seventh to break tie, foil DeJean

Riley yields 5 in 3-plus innings

Short starts taking toll as O's lose third in row

Palmeiro, Bigbie homer

April 28, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Eventually, the Orioles hope, the story lines will change. Their young starting pitchers will come of age, and they won't turn each game into a trapeze act for their bullpen, with one reliever after another holding on for dear life.

Last night against the Seattle Mariners, Matt Riley put the bullpen right back in the circus tent, where Rodrigo Lopez dazzled the crowd for a few innings before Mike DeJean came crashing down in another heap.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli pulled Lopez in the seventh inning, and the Mariners rallied for two runs against DeJean to break their five-game losing streak with a 7-5 victory before 19,747 at Camden Yards.

Rafael Palmeiro and Larry Bigbie each hit home runs as the Orioles came back from an early three-run deficit, and they threatened to come back again in the eighth before stumbling to their third straight loss.

Riley, who looked like a Rookie of the Year candidate in his first two starts, had his second consecutive rough outing, as Mazzilli pulled him after the first four Mariners batters reached to start the fourth inning.

"He threw 93 pitches in three innings [plus those four batters]," Mazzilli said. "That won't work in the big leagues."

The Mariners built a 5-2 lead, with the five runs charged to Riley, but the Orioles came back to tie it in the sixth inning, setting the stage for the game's defining sequence.

Lopez, who had yet to allow a run all season, retired the first two batters to start the seventh before issuing a four-pitch walk to Rich Aurilia. With the left-handed-hitting John Olerud coming up, Mazzilli turned to left-hander Buddy Groom.

"That's Buddy's role right there," Mazzilli said. "That's his job to get that guy. It just didn't work out. When you make a move with conviction, you believe in it, and there was no doubt when I brought Buddy in, I thought he was going to get the out."

Olerud was 4-for-13 lifetime against Groom, and he singled this time, bringing the right-handed-hitting Dan Wilson to the plate. So Mazzilli turned to DeJean in the type of situation the Orioles had been anticipating for months.

They signed DeJean to a one-year, $1.5 million contract in December, hoping he could be a bridge to closer Jorge Julio, but DeJean has become the bullpen's weakest link.

He took the loss in Saturday's 12-inning defeat against the Toronto Blue Jays and then surrendered four runs in one-third of an inning Sunday. Appearing in his fourth straight game last night, he got ahead of Wilson 0-2, but left a split-fingered fastball in the strike zone, and Wilson lifted it to center field for a run-scoring single.

"Tonight was probably the absolute best I've felt all year," DeJean said, dismissing the notion that he was tired. "You try to stay positive."

Then, with an 0-2 count to No. 9 hitter Jolbert Cabrera, DeJean grooved a fastball that Cabrera smashed up the middle, bringing home another run. A few hearty souls who remained in the stands, despite temperatures that dropped into the 40s, unleashed some boos toward DeJean, whose ERA stands at 9.45.

Lopez (1-1), who took the loss, and Groom were each charged with a run, and each saw his season-opening scoreless streak come to an end - at 16 1/3 innings and 6 2/3 innings, respectively.

"Lopey threw outstanding," DeJean said. "He's been phenomenal all year, and he deserved a lot better than that."

Trailing 7-5 in the eighth, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out, but Palmeiro popped to shortstop, and Mariners closer Eddie Guardado came on to retire Javy Lopez to end the threat.

Guardado pitched the ninth for his third save. Ron Villone (2-0), who tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, got the win.

The game started as a tale of two struggling starting pitchers - Riley vs. the Mariners' Gil Meche. Both starters were working with an extra day of rest after Monday's rainout, and the start was delayed another 29 minutes because of rain.

After two innings, the pitchers had combined to throw 121 pitches - 70 for Meche and 51 for Riley.

Riley took a 2-1 lead into the fourth inning, but four batters later, he was gone. Wilson started the onslaught with a home run, and then Cabrera doubled, hitting a line drive that Bigbie misjudged in left field, moving in on the ball only to have it sail over his head.

Once again, Riley couldn't stop the bleeding, as Ichiro Suzuki and Scott Spiezio both singled before Mazzilli went to his bullpen.

Lopez came on and retired the first three batters he faced, but the Mariners stretched the lead to 5-2 on a passed ball by Lopez and an RBI groundout by Edgar Martinez.

Riley was charged with four earned runs on nine hits. After giving up four hits combined in his first two starts, Riley has given up 18 hits in his past two starts.

"I'm a little bit baffled," Riley said, "with where it went."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Mariners' Jamie Moyer (1-2, 6.26) vs. Orioles' Kurt Ainsworth (0-1, 9.88)

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