Twins 3, Orioles 1
While a Baltimore Orioles rookie pitcher showed perhaps he had matured and distanced himself from previous childish indiscretions, the veteran closer was the one who appeared to lose control.
Only two days after handing the New York Yankees a win with a four-walk inning, closer Jorge Julio yielded a two-run home run to Michael Cuddyer in the ninth inning of a tie game, giving the Minnesota Twins a 3-1 win. The sour ending overshadowed the performance of 25-year-old rookie Matt Riley, who pitched seven innings, allowing one run on two hits.
With the crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards jeering after Cuddyer's home run, Julio showed his lack of composure and inability to forget failure by unleashing a fastball at the head of the following hitter, 5-foot-8 third baseman Augie Ojeda, who ducked out of the way. Julio immediately was thrown out of the game.
"It was a purpose pitch, no doubt about it," Ojeda said. "Ninety-five [mph] is career-threatening. It could easily have been the end of my career. Accidents happen. But that wasn't an accident."
Julio, who earned his 21st save on Monday with a scoreless inning, said he simply threw a two-seam fastball that ran too far inside, a strategy he uses against most lefties.
"I never wanted to try to hit this guy," Julio said. "The umpire just threw me out. I don't know what happened."
But Ojeda, a switch hitter who was batting from the left side, was not satisfied with Julio's explanation.
"He should be a man and say what he really wanted to do," Ojeda said.
Ojeda said the pitch angered teammates, though he did not go so far as to say the Twins would retaliate either Wednesday or next week when the teams play in Minnesota.
"We're not here to cause any problems," Ojeda said. "We're here to win some games."
Riley's start came undone in the eighth. Riley, given a 1-0 lead on a double by Melvin Mora in the sixth, walked Terry Tiffee to start the eighth and was left in to face Henry Blanco. Riley walked Blanco.
Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said he wanted the lefty Riley to face Tiffee, who was only 1 for 10 batting right-handed. Mazzilli said he allowed Riley to remain after the walk to Tiffee because Blanco was likely going to bunt.
"You can't walk the guy on a bunt," Mazzilli said.
Riley was replaced by Jason Grimsley, who allowed a bunt single to Shannon Stewart to load the bases. But Lew Ford followed with a double play ground ball to second baseman Brian Roberts that scored a run but quieted the rally. The inning ended on a strikeout by Torii Hunter.
"It was a good start," Riley said. "It's a start toward trying to belong here. I have to prove to the coaches and my teammates that I belong here. One start doesn't do that."
Riley had not yet exhausted every possible opportunity with the Orioles, though he had caused them considerable grief.
In his short time with the Orioles, Riley managed to depress, anger, frustrate, bewilder -- everything but impress -- Baltimore management.
He was a talent, that was for sure. But he was also an anomaly, who had been arrested for starting a fight during spring training in 2000 and had struggled through elbow ligament replacement surgery the same year.
Riley, though considered a top prospect, was a surprise addition to the team's rotation out of spring training. But again, he found a way to squander the opportunity.
On July 1, in preparation for his start the next day, the Orioles sent Riley to Philadelphia to rest while the team was in Kansas City during a road trip.
Riley arrived in Philadelphia, but drove to Baltimore, where he spent the night. Riley did not arrive at Philadelphia's Citizen Bank Ballpark until 4:30 p.m. Later that night, he allowed five runs in one inning against the Phillies. Riley was demoted immediately after the game.
Although in possession of a powerful arm, Riley had yet to realize that careers are cut short, even for an immense talent like himself, when the game is not taken seriously and orders from management aren't respected. The Hall of Fame is full of players as talented as Riley. But so too are the minor leagues and the waiver wire.
"This game humbles a lot of people," Orioles Executive Vice President Jim Beattie said.
If the start against Minnesota was not his final chance, it certainly was close to it.
"It's an opportunity," Beattie said. "When people get opportunities, they have to make the best of it. They don't know when they are going to come again."
For the moment, Mazzilli said Riley does not have a permanent place in the rotation. But he showed a maturity one of his teammates lacked.
Orioles Notes: Prior to the game, the Orioles held a tryout for 19-year-old third baseman Leance Soto, son of Miguel Tejada's trainer Enrique Soto.
Soto is from Bani, Dominican Republic, the same home town as Tejada. The Orioles shortstop said Soto does not yet have representation, but would likely try to sign with Fernando Cuza and Diego Benz, Tejada's agents. Several Orioles officials, including Beattie, seemed interested in Soto. Enrique Soto said his son would likely work out for several other teams, possibly Texas, before making a decision. . . . The Orioles recalled relief pitcher Eddy Rodriguez from Class AAA Ottawa.