O's Julio dejected, ejected, 3-1

Closer falls to Twins on 2-run HR in 9th, then departs after inside pitch

Riley allows just 1 run, 2 hits in O's return

September 08, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles starter Matt Riley lost his no-hit bid in the fifth inning last night, and his shutout was gone in the eighth. And with a game still capable of being won, closer Jorge Julio lost his touch again.

A bigger surprise was the manner in which Julio lost his composure, ever so briefly, to cap the Orioles' 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins before 29,624 at Camden Yards and nearly touch off a brawl.

The Orioles (64-73) had won seven of their past eight games, and were trying to claim their third straight series. Rain's in the forecast for tonight. Julio caused an early storm.

Michael Cuddyer hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie. On the next pitch, Julio sailed a 99-mph fastball directly at Augie Ojeda's head, forcing the Twins third baseman to duck for protection.

Ojeda took a few steps toward Julio, who immediately was ejected by plate umpire Ron Kulpa. Both managers left the dugout, with Lee Mazzilli arguing the ruling.

Mazzilli said he didn't believe the pitch was intentional, and Julio insisted he was trying to come inside on Ojeda, a former Orioles farmhand.

"I was working to throw down," Julio said. "I never try to hit this guy. The umpire just threw me out. I don't know what happened."

The Twins are convinced they have a pretty good idea. They especially were angered by Julio's reaction after leaving the field - as if they needed to be stirred up any more.

"We see him laughing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We see him down at the end of the dugout smiling and laughing. He's not playing the same game we're playing. That's not right.

"It's a real [chicken] thing to do. That's a guy that ought to be suspended for a long time. I guarantee you if you ask everyone on that other team over there, they know it, too. His whole team. That's a sad thing right there."

Julio walked pinch hitter Jason Kubel with one out but retired Cristian Guzman on a fly ball. Cuddyer launched a 97-mph fastball into the left-field seats for his ninth homer, and Julio put a little something extra on his next pitch.

"It just didn't look right," said Ojeda, who pinch ran for Terry Tiffee in the eighth. "If you're going to hit me, hit me in the arm. This is my career, and it could have ended real quick. I was more surprised than anything."

Asked if he believed the pitch was unintentional, Mazzilli said, "I would like to think so."

"From this side, there was no intent. But I haven't spoken to him about it yet."

Julio continues a pattern of good and bad that's become his only consistent trait. He blows a save against Tampa Bay and strikes out the side in New York. He walks four batters in the ninth to lose a game at Yankee Stadium, and gets the save the next day.

"He's the closer, and you've got to go to him," Mazzilli said, rebuffing the suggestion of using B.J. Ryan in that role. "He's got to work his way out of it."

The Twins didn't get a hit until Guzman singled to lead off the fifth. The first nine batters didn't get the ball out of the infield.

Beginning with Shannon Stewart's fly ball to end the third, eight of the next nine outs were recorded by outfielders. But the Twins weren't any closer to breaking up the shutout bid.

Larry Bigbie made a leaping catch at the warning track to end the seventh, but Mazzilli sent out Riley to begin the eighth with the left-hander's pitch count at 94.

Riley, who allowed two hits, walked the first two batters and openly disagreed with Kulpa's strike zone during Henry Blanco's at-bat. He circled the mound in disgust as Mazzilli headed toward him, signaling for Jason Grimsley to protect a 1-0 lead.

"I just ran out of a little juice in the eighth," Riley said. "I don't think anyone thought it would run out until I was out there."

Mazzilli wanted Riley to retire Tiffee, the leadoff hitter, before going to his bullpen. When that failed, he figured Riley could pitch to Blanco in an obvious bunting situation, but another walk ruined that strategy.

While Riley sat in the dugout, Stewart reached on a bunt single. Melvin Mora broke for third and Grimsley hesitated before chasing the ball. With the infield playing back, Lew Ford bounced a double-play ball to second baseman Brian Roberts, as the tying run scored.

Riley "threw a really good game," Mazzilli said. "It's a shame he didn't get a chance to win it."

Mora doubled in the sixth off Brad Radke to score David Newhan and give the Orioles a lead that almost was enough for Riley, making his first start since returning to the roster.

Riley was the No. 4 starter after spring training, but he was dropped from the rotation after eight starts. He's landed in the bullpen, the disabled list and Ottawa, his second trip a punishment for arriving about 2 1/2 hours before a July 2 start in Philadelphia.

Can he get back in the rotation for another start?

Mazzilli indicated before the game that Riley would be used out of the bullpen for the rest of the month.

"Where this puts him," Mazzilli said, "it doesn't change anything."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Minnesota Twins

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

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

Starters: Twins' Johan Santana (16-6, 2.95) vs. Orioles' Erik Bedard (6-9, 4.73)

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