Moyer again slows O's, 8-1

Former Oriole out-duels Lopez with 81-mph `heat'

May 27, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- The Orioles had guaranteed themselves at least a .500 record on a road trip that made their knees buckle a year ago. They had their hottest pitcher starting opposite a guy whose fastball is more easy listening than grunge.

It was hard for the Orioles not to feel good about themselves yesterday when they arrived at Safeco Field. It was harder not to feel dissatisfied when they left.

Rodrigo Lopez had his unbeaten streak broken, and soft-tossing former Orioles pitcher Jamie Moyer was up to his old tricks as the Seattle Mariners rolled to an 8-1 victory before another sellout crowd of 45,674.

"Today, they beat the best pitcher we have," said Orioles leadoff hitter Melvin Mora. "That's baseball. Moyer threw an 81-mph fastball, and he beat us."

Moyer's radar readings were a little higher than that -- 81 mph to 83 mph, with the occasional burst to 85. Still, the Orioles kept flailing away, and this has been their recurring nightmare since he left as a free agent seven years ago.

In 17 career starts against the Orioles, Moyer is 13-1. The only loss came in 1989, before he came to Baltimore, when he was still pitching for the Texas Rangers. Since then, he has rattled off 13 consecutive wins against the Orioles.

This time, he allowed just five hits over eight innings.

After going 1-for-3, Jerry Hairston explained the complexities of hitting Moyer like this: "With guys that throw in the mid-90s or low-90s, their changeup is about 84 -- that's his fastball.

"His changeup, I saw a couple times at 72. That's more like a double changeup. You see it and then you go after it, and you want to attack the ball, and it's not there yet."

The difference between Moyer (4-2) and Lopez (5-1) came down to their changeups. Lopez surrendered two home runs -- John Olerud in the second inning, Carlos Guillen in the fourth -- and both came on changeups that he left floating high in the strike zone.

When Lopez was struggling in the San Diego organization, left-handed hitters killed him because he didn't have an effective changeup to complement his fastball and slider. Developing that pitch was paramount to his early-season success, and he entered this game with the chance to become the first Orioles rookie to open a season 6-0.

Lefties were hitting just .250 against Lopez entering the game, but they hurt him again yesterday. Mariners manager Lou Piniella used a lineup with only two right-handed hitters, and the rest of the lineup -- Olerud, Guillen, Ichiro Suzuki and company -- went 6-for-15.

In Seattle's pivotal, four-run second inning, lefties did most of the damage. Olerud homered, Guillen and Davis (both switch-hitters) had base hits, Suzuki singled and Mark McLemore delivered a sacrifice fly.

Lopez will face these same Mariners on Friday at Camden Yards.

"With this kind of lineup," Lopez said, "you have to have three quality pitches, and I just had two today. I just went with the fastball and slider. I'm still proud of myself and happy with what I've been doing. I didn't think it was that bad of a start. It was just one of those days where you don't have your pitches."

Lopez carried the American League's best ERA coming into the game at 1.94, but it increased to 2.57 after the Mariners scored five runs against him in five innings.

It was the first time in 12 games this season, including seven starts, Lopez had given up more than three runs.

"It certainly was an off-day," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "He wasn't the Rodrigo Lopez we've seen up to now, but I don't think we're going to hang ourselves or hang him over one bad outing."

Hargrove seemed more frustrated with his offense.

The Orioles' lone run came when Jeff Conine scored Chris Singleton with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning.

Singleton singled to start the inning, then stole second and third. He finished the game 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to 15 games. During the streak, he has raised his average from .173 to .261.

Marty Cordova, meanwhile, is headed the other direction. He went 0-for-12 in this series with six strikeouts and didn't hit a ball out of the infield, lowering his average from .315 to .287.

After winning two of three in Oakland, the Orioles dropped two of three in Seattle. But it was a lot better than their previous trip out here in September, when they lost all six games.

"I think before we left, if somebody said we were going to go 3-3, I think all of us would have taken it," Hargrove said. "There are a lot of people around the country who wouldn't believe we could have gone 3-3 on this trip.

"So there were some good things that happened on this road trip. A lot more good things than bad things."

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