Riley shines again, but Jays blank O's, 3-0

Lefty allows 1 hit, a shot off face, until sixth, but O's miss chances

September 16, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - If Matt Riley was going to get knocked out of last night's game, it wouldn't be while lying flat on his back, his eyes flickering at the gray sky.

Usually, it's just a figure of speech.

Making his 10th start for the Orioles this season, Riley continued to pitch after a sharp one-hopper from Toronto's Reed Johnson in the first inning struck him below the left side of his jaw.

A run eventually scored on a wild pitch, and it held up a little longer than Riley, who made it through the seventh in the Orioles' 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays at SkyDome.

The Orioles scraped together six hits in eight innings against left-hander Ted Lilly (11-10), who hadn't started against them since 2001.

Riley allowed a run and two hits for the second consecutive start, this time issuing seven walks. B.J. Ryan inherited two runners from Jason Grimsley in the eighth, and they both scored to pad Toronto's lead. One run was unearned after Melvin Mora's throwing error.

Jose Leon's two-out single in the seventh almost tied the game, but right fielder Alex Rios threw out Rafael Palmeiro at the plate. The Orioles were denied in the eighth after putting runners on the corners with one out, and David Newhan snuffed the last rally by hitting into a double play in the ninth.

"You've got to capitalize on that," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "When you don't, it takes the air out of you."

The teams were idle Tuesday so their game wouldn't conflict with the finals of hockey's World Cup, played a few blocks away at the Air Canada Centre. Riley showed how baseball also can be a contact sport, without the heavy padding.

Riley (1-4) collapsed after throwing his second pitch. The ball eluded his raised glove and smashed into his face, and Riley fell straight back, his feet pointed toward third base.

Johnson reached on the infield hit, and Mazzilli, trainer Richie Bancells and pitching coach Ray Miller raced onto the field.

"It kind of jarred my brain a little bit," Riley said. "I wasn't scared. I should have made the play."

Said Mazzilli: "I think it shocked him more than anything."

Riley eventually sat up and was grinning as Bancells continued to examine him. He took one warm-up toss, and kept flexing his jaw after striking out Rios for the third out and walking to the dugout.

"I knew I'd stay in," he said. "It's just a baseball. You've got to shake that stuff off."

Almost as painful was the run that scored when Riley slipped on the mound and bounced a pitch past catcher Javy Lopez with two outs.

Johnson's single was the only hit off Riley until the sixth inning.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "I just need to cut down on the walks. I probably could have went a little deeper if I didn't have seven of them."

In his previous appearance, Riley took a shutout into the eighth before the Minnesota Twins scored the tying run. He didn't get the decision in a 3-1 loss.

After some hesitation, Mazzilli decided to give Riley another start - his second with the Orioles (66-77) since July 2 - and shut down Erik Bedard.

Mazzilli picked the right opponent. Riley held the Blue Jays to one hit, a homer by Josh Phelps, over seven innings in an April 16 win at SkyDome. In four career starts, he's 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA.

With his team facing a left-hander, Mazzilli leaned to the right side by putting Tim Raines and Darnell McDonald in the outfield and Leon at first base.

Mazzilli's lineup also included Palmeiro as the designated hitter. Palmeiro, who had a double and two singles last night, must play first base in 17 of the last 19 games for his $4.5 million option to kick in next season.

Palmeiro's home run in Monday's series opener gave him 200 as an Oriole. He's the third player in major league history to reach that total with two teams, joining Mark McGwire and Jimmie Foxx.

NOTE: Three months after touting the selection of Rice pitcher Wade Townsend as their No. 1 pick in baseball's amateur draft, the Orioles are prepared to lose his rights. Townsend is attending classes for his senior year and has signed with agent Casey Close, a decision that eliminates his eligibility as a college player.

Major League Baseball is in the process of determining whether the Orioles still hold his rights, or if he'll re-enter the draft next June. It's believed that no player has retained an agent and also attended classes.

"As of this date it's our understanding that he's going back into next year's draft," said executive vice president Jim Beattie. "I understand they're trying to go down a new road. I talked to the commissioner's office recently and they said we can't negotiate with him. At this point, negotiations are dead. It's very disappointing, but you have to move forward."

Townsend, the eighth overall pick in the draft, was named the Western Athletic Conference's Player of the Year after going 12-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 148 strikeouts. He expects to graduate in December and could pitch for an independent league team if the Orioles lose his rights.

"We made a proposal," Beattie said. "We thought it was a solid proposal, and it was rejected."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: SkyDome, Toronto

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (12-8, 3.86) vs. Blue Jays' Miguel Batista (10-11, 4.64)

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