Mariners dump 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. Rodrigo Lopez dazzled the crowd for a few innings, and 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 halt 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 to bring the Orioles back from an early three-run deficit, but they came away with 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. Mazzilli pulled him after the first four Mariners batters reached to start the fourth inning.

"He threw 93 pitches in three innings." Mazzilli said. "That's not going to work."

The Mariners built a 5-2 lead, but the Orioles came back to tie it in the sixth inning.

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

"That's Buddy's role right there." Mazzilli said. "That's his job, and when you make that move, you make it with conviction."

But Olerud singled, bringing the right-handed-hitting Dan Wilson to the plate, so Mazzilli turned to DeJean. The Orioles 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 an off-speed pitch up in the zone, and Wilson muscled it to center field for a run- scoring single.

Then, with an 0-2 count to No. 9 hitter Jolbert Cabrera, he 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 now stands at 9.45.

"Lopey was outstanding." DeJean said of Lopez (1-1), who took the loss. "He's been phenomenal all year. 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 and end the threat.

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

The problems were evident in the beginning. After two innings, the pitchers had combined to throw 121 pitches - 70 for Meche and 51 for Riley.

Meche walked Jay Gibbons with the bases loaded in the first inning, forcing home the first run.

Riley, who held opponents to an American League-low .089 batting average in his first two starts, seemed to find his rhythm in the third inning, but with two outs he caught a bad break.

Bret Boone hit a little roller down the third base line that barely stayed fair, and that started a string of four consecutive singles. Boone scored on a liner to left field by Raul Ibanez.

Palmeiro put the Orioles back in front when he crushed the first pitch from Meche in the third inning - an 88-mph changeup - over the center- field wall. It was the 100th home run Palmeiro has hit at Camden Yards as an Oriole.

So Riley went to the mound in the fourth, trying to hold a 2-1 lead, but four batters later, he was gone.

Wilson started the onslaught with a home run, and then Cabrera doubled on 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 catcher Javy Lopez and a RBI ground out by Edgar Martinez.

Riley was charged with five runs (four earned) on nine hits. After giving up four hits in his first two starts combined, Riley has given up 12 runs on 18 hits in his past two starts.

With a three-run lead, Mariners manager Bob Melvin pulled Meche, who had thrown 87 pitches in three innings, and turned to Julio Mateo. The Orioles missed a chance for a big inning in the fourth, when Melvin Mora committed a cardinal sin on the bases.

Miguel Tejada hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field for the second out, and with the bases loaded, all three runners tried to advance. Bigbie scored, Brian Roberts advanced to third, but Cabrera, the Mariners center fielder, threw out Mora trying to advance standing up into second.

That ended the inning. Palmeiro, who came in leading the Orioles with 16 RBIs, left his bat in the on-deck circle, Tejada stood near first base for a prolonged moment, staring away in disgust.

Two innings later, Bigbie and Mora atoned for their earlier mistakes.

Bigbie hit his team-leading fourth home run with out in the sixth, trimming the lead to 5-4, and after Roberts lined a double off the right-field scoreboard, Mora tied it with a single up the middle.

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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