Shades of '66 as O's, Lopez stifle Dodgers

Rookie tosses shutout for 8 2/3 innings

Orioles hold on for 4-2 victory

Mora hits two home runs

B. Roberts hits first HR

Julio notches 11th save

June 08, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Thirty-six years later, the Dodgers still couldn't score against the Orioles.

In a game that looked like an extension of the 1966 World Series, Orioles pitcher Rodrigo Lopez came within one out of his first major-league shutout last night.

The Dodgers, who were shut out over the final 33 innings of that '66 Series, finally rallied in the ninth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, but the Orioles held on for a 4-2 victory before 33,624 at Camden Yards.

In the first interleague game of the season, and the first under the new format that pits teams from the American League East against the National League West, the Orioles won a game that had special meaning for Lopez.

As a youngster in the Mexico City suburb of Tlalnepantla, Lopez grew up like many young Mexican boys, idolizing Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. Lopez had a Valenzuela jersey with the No. 34, and the Dodgers were his favorite team.

Lopez also remembers his first day in a big-league clubhouse, as a member of the San Diego Padres organization, when a veteran pitcher walked up to him and handed him a brand new glove.

That generous person was Andy Ashby, the man who pitched for the Dodgers last night.

"I was thinking about that," Lopez said. "And now pitching against him, against the Dodgers, that's something I'll never forget."

Before the game, the video scoreboard played extended highlights of the '66 Series, as early-arriving fans saw color images of the Orioles sweeping the Dodgers in four games.

The Orioles upstaged the pitching duo of Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax in that series, as Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker and Dave McNally blanked the Dodgers over the final three games. The Dodgers didn't score after the third inning of Game 1, and Baltimore had its first world title.

This time, the Orioles built a 4-0 cushion behind two home runs by Melvin Mora, a run-scoring single by Tony Batista and the first homer of the season by Brian Roberts. Ashby (5-5) gave up eight hits, the most in any start since April 16.

Lopez (6-1) went to the mound with the second-best ERA in the American League and lowered it to 2.51. The one thing missing from a storybook rookie season for Lopez has been a complete game. In fact, he hadn't pitched past the seventh inning in any of his first eight starts.

This time he arrived in the ninth inning with 85 pitches, having allowed just three hits. Dodgers leadoff hitter Dave Roberts watched a 93-mph fastball for strike three, and Lopez was two outs away.

Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green hit back-to-back singles, but Brian Jordan flew to center field for the second out, bringing the fans to their feet.

Still, the Dodgers weren't finished. Eric Karros lined a high fastball for a base hit, and when center fielder Chris Singleton mishandled the ball, Lo Duca came in to score.

At that point, Orioles manger Mike Hargrove walked to the mound to pull Lopez, and the crowd filled the air with boos. Hargrove said he wasn't going to let Lopez face the potential tying or winning run. Not on this night.

"That's where as a manager, you've got to use your head, not your heart," Hargrove said. "I wanted him to throw a complete game probably more than anybody. I wanted him to get the shutout, of course.

"My heart was sitting there telling me let him finish it off, and my head was saying, the important thing is to win this ballgame."

Lopez handed the ball to Hargrove, and with the crowd turning its boos to cheers, the pitcher doffed his cap.

He wanted to finish the game, but he understood.

"I would never complain," Lopez said, "about a manager's decision."

So the Orioles turned to closer Jorge Julio, who had to scramble for his 11th save in 15 chances. Dave Hansen lined a single to left field, scoring Green with the Dodgers' second run.

Then Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil, a former Dodgers minor leaguer, had a pitch get away from him for a passed ball. This moved the runners to second and third, but Julio threw a slider past Adrian Beltre for a strikeout, and Lopez popped off the bench with that thousand-watt smile.

"You have to give Rodrigo Lopez a lot of credit," said Dodgers manager Jim Tracy. "We were able to do little of anything against him in eight innings. He mixed his pitches very well. He threw just enough change-ups to keep us off-balance. He threw fastballs for strikes. He was indicative of what the scouting report told us he could do."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Los Angeles Dodgers

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

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

Starters: Dodgers' Kazuhisa Ishii (9-1, 2.91) vs. Orioles' Jason Johnson (1-3, 5.48)

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