Riley, Meche make pitch - albeit slowly

Starters throw 180 pitches, but neither makes it through the fourth inning

April 28, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

A light rain fell at Camden Yards last night, but the tarp stayed off the field. So did the two teams.

Nineteen minutes past the scheduled starting time, Orioles left-hander Matt Riley finally was allowed to throw his first pitch to Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. And a game dragged.

A sense of urgency never made it to the ballpark for the Mariners' 7-5 win over the Orioles in a game that took 3 hours, 46 minutes. Time didn't just stand still, it was ticketed for loitering.

Riley and Seattle starter Gil Meche combined to throw 180 pitches. Neither got through the fourth inning. Riley came the closest by facing four batters in the fourth and retiring none.

Meche was done after the third with his team behind 2-1. He threw 87 pitches, six fewer than Riley. Of the 12 batters he faced through the second, half ran the count full.

It seemed appropriate that their first run came on a bases-loaded walk to Jay Gibbons. And it made perfect sense that Riley was long gone by the time a two-run sixth enabled the Orioles to tie the score, 5-5.

Mazzilli couldn't stay with him any longer. Not with Riley beginning the fourth by serving up a home run to Dan Wilson and allowing a double and two singles. He led the American League by holding opponents to a .089 average in his first two starts, but Tampa Bay went 9-for-20 with five walks last Wednesday, and Seattle was 9-for-18 with two walks.

"Same story, different game," Riley said after eight of the last nine batters reached against him. "I'm falling off the mound, and when I do that, I'm showing them my pitches. I've got to make some adjustments. I watched tape today of my first two starts and I was awesome. Now I'm not repeating the same stuff I was then."

Riley looked as if he wanted to speed things up by retiring the first two batters in the third, but the Mariners strung together four straight hits to tie the game.

By the end of the game, half the team was violating the rule against facial hair.

Riley has thrown 184 pitches in his last two starts over 7 1/3 innings. "That won't work in the big leagues," Mazzilli said.

Maybe tonight's starters, Kurt Ainsworth and Jamie Moyer, will prove more efficient. Maybe a light rain won't keep the teams in their dugouts. And maybe the grounds crew can go back to dragging the infield between innings instead of mowing the grass.

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