Orioles 3, Tigers 0
Matt Riley has tempted and teased Baltimore from the moment the Orioles branded him as one of their top pitching prospects. Every time he seemed to progress on the field, his immaturity tugged at him like a rope around his neck. While his bravado was encouraging, his demeanor was upsetting. But in the span of two months, Riley, just 25 years old, has seemed to age several years.
Riley continued his remarkable comeback by allowing just two hits in six innings in the Orioles' 3-0 win against the Detroit Tigers. It was his third quality start in four tries since being called up to make a spot start on Sept. 7. In those four starts, Riley has a 1.82 ERA.
On Saturday, Riley teased Baltimore again, though this time in a good way, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Carlos Pena's single with two outs in the fifth inning broke up Riley's short no-hit bid. Riley immediately lost his command. He walked the next two batters, but regained his composure by striking out Omar Infante to end the inning.
"With a young kid, when he gets in the middle of a bind, you have to see if he can work his way out of it," Manager Lee Mazzilli said.
"I had no doubt I could get out of that inning," Riley said.
He pitched a scoreless sixth and then gave way to a group of relievers, who pitched three scoreless innings. B.J. Ryan, though he loaded the bases in the ninth, recorded his first save since being named closer this week.
"What happened and watching him come back the way he dug down deep, that's the sign of a closer," Mazzilli said of Ryan.
In his previous start, Riley was denied a win against the Boston Red Sox when Mazzilli took him out of an 8-4 game with two outs in the fifth inning. After the game, Riley said he was disappointed at not being allowed to finish the inning. But he did not seethe or sulk, showing a restraint and a maturity he lacked at the beginning of the year when he disobeyed the team's order to spend a night in Philadelphia prior to a start and instead drove to Baltimore. This time, Riley simply said he respected his manager's decision.
"That was a test, no question," Mazzilli said.
Now Riley, who started the season in the rotation but was dismissed because of poor performance and truant behavior, appears a leading candidate for a starting spot next season. Riley said time has allowed him to mature.
"It takes time to pitch here," he said. "You don't just come up here and start dominating. I'm taking steps forward instead of two steps back like in the past."
The Orioles gave Riley a lead in the first inning with an RBI groundout by Miguel Tejada and a run-scoring single Rafael Palmeiro. The hit was sweet redemption for Palmeiro, who on Friday in his first game back after missing three with a strained hamstring, was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts while leaving six on base. The Orioles scored another run against Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman in the seventh on a bunt single by Brian Roberts.
"The big story is that the team played well for me," Riley said.
Perhaps the bigger story is now that Riley is mature enough to recognize his teammates instead of just himself.
Orioles Notes: Darnell McDonald, the team's first-round pick in 1997, said he is considering quitting baseball after the season to play college football. McDonald, a highly recruited running back out of high school in Colorado, turned down an opportunity to play at the University of Texas in order to sign a contract with the Orioles that included a $1.9 million bonus. But McDonald, 25, has not developed, hitting just .259 in seven minor league seasons, and has played only sparingly for the Orioles since being called up to Baltimore on Sept. 6. If he quit, only one of the team's 12 first-round picks since 1997, Larry Bigbie, would be on the major league roster. . . .
Mazzilli reacting to a possible team in Washington: "You're looking for this to be your town, so to speak. But I understand what's going on. I'm well aware of what could happen, what the repercussions could be. I don't know what the answer will be. Who does? What kind of impact it will have? I don't know either. But I'm sure there will be an impact on this club somehow." . . .
Erik Bedard, who the team said would be shut down for the remainder of the season for precautionary reasons after his Sept. 8 start, will be available in long relief, Mazzilli said.