O's throw one away, 3-2

Ray's errant toss in ninth helps lift Seattle

O's miss chances for runs, 1st place

July 17, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - Before the opening pitch last night, the Orioles knew a win would tie them with the Boston Red Sox for first place in their division, one of the perks of playing on the West Coast. A loss would bring them within a half game of relinquishing sole possession of second. No need for guessing the stakes. They were laid out early.

They also became too high for a rookie pitcher.

Given the chore of keeping a game tied in the ninth inning, Chris Ray committed a throwing error on a slow roller near the mound and surrendered a single to Mike Morse that gave the Seattle Mariners a 3-2 victory over the Orioles at Safeco Field.

Adrian Beltre led off the ninth with a single and took third when Ray fielded Willie Bloomquist's swinging bunt and fired the ball over first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. Ray got two strikes on Morse before the rookie shortstop lined a single into right field.

Ray lost for the first time in the majors, the decision inevitable after the ball left his hand on the bunt. "He just rushed it," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I felt he had time. I just think everything was going too fast."

Bruce Chen left after 7 2/3 innings with the score tied 2-2 and Ichiro Suzuki standing at second base as the potential go-ahead run. Ray struck out Richie Sexson to close the eighth inning, but he never got an out in the ninth.

"I just told him to hang in there," Mazzilli said. "That's part of a reliever's life. You're going to go through that sometimes. It might make him better."

Efforts continue to improve the team. The Orioles remain in the hunt for Florida Marlins pitcher A.J. Burnett, the field of suitors narrowing from seven teams to perhaps two, while also awaiting Erik Bedard's return tomorrow.

"I don't think we're shy about doing something to help the club this year," executive vice president Jim Beattie said.

That's good news for a collection of players who took an immediate liking to their role as surprise contenders and aren't in a hurry to surrender it.

"We're here to stay," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "We're here to be in this for the rest of the year."

It doesn't appear that Ray is going anywhere, his education as a pitcher bound to continue in the majors, his responsibilities growing. Last night was part of the learning process.

"Probably I should have just faked the throw to first and held onto the ball, but I thought I could get him and I made a bad throw," said Ray (0-1), who was counseled after the game by relief veterans Jason Grimsley and B.J. Ryan.

"I made good pitches and [the Mariners] reached out and got them. I did everything I usually do when I go out there and they just got the best of me.

"If nothing like this ever happened to me, I would have been up here a long time ago."

Palmeiro collected two more hits, giving him 3,003 and leaving him four behind Baltimore native Al Kaline for 24th place on the all-time list.

The Orioles stayed in the dugout in the fourth inning rather than charge out of it to surround him, as they did after his historic hit the previous night, but last night's single held its own importance, continuing a rally that tied the game.

B.J. Surhoff's sacrifice fly scored Miguel Tejada, who began the inning with a walk against Mariners starter Jamie Moyer. Luis Matos followed with a double, with Palmeiro coming home on a grounder by Larry Bigbie.

The Orioles, who stranded 10 runners, didn't cash in the next time Palmeiro reached base. He singled in the eighth and took third on Matos' bloop single with two outs. Bigbie, a player who could be headed to the Marlins if the Burnett trade is finalized, bounced to first with the count full.

The Mariners took a 2-0 lead against Chen in the first inning, the last run scoring on a bases-empty homer by Sexson, his second in two nights. Chen retired nine of the next 10 batters and escaped potential trouble in the fourth when Tejada's relay cut down Morse at third base as the rookie attempted to stretch a double.

"He always keeps you in the game," Mazzilli said of Chen.

Moyer is 15-3 in 27 career games against his former team. The left-hander is believed to be on the trade market and could be a fit for the Orioles if other options, such as Burnett, fall through as the non-waiver deadline of July 31 approaches.

The Orioles threatened to take the lead against Moyer in the seventh after one-out singles by rookie Eli Whiteside and Brian Roberts, but Sammy Sosa and Melvin Mora struck out looking. Sosa struck out again in the ninth after Roberts' one-out double.

"I know we have a good team here," catcher Sal Fasano said. "Boston's a good team, New York's a good team. But if we're worried about them, we're not doing much ourselves."

Orioles today

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site, time: Safeco Field, Seattle, 4:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (7-7, 5.93) vs. Mariners' Gil Meche (9-6, 4.85)

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