Lopez throttles Angels, wins, 3-0

Two Gibbons HRs back rookie-led O's 4-hitter

July 03, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Orioles pitcher Rodrigo Lopez has had brilliant games this season when all three of his pitches were crisp, the walk totals were minuscule and everything seemed to come with ease.

Last night was different.

His velocity was down, his off-speed pitches unreliable. At one point, he fell down, face first, right on the mound. A couple innings later, Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil fell on his back, making this game look like Disney on Ice.

Somehow, Lopez kept Disney's Anaheim Angels scoreless for seven innings, and Jay Gibbons hit two home runs, lifting the Orioles to a 3-0 victory at Edison International Field.

After coming West for a six-game road trip that will lead directly into the All-Star break, the Orioles snapped their recent funk with their second victory in the past five games. And this one came against an Angels club that has won 41 of its past 61.

Lopez (7-3) held Anaheim to four hits, but he matched a season high with five walks and hit a batter, making this a long, hard struggle. After throwing his 111th and final pitch, which struck out Tim Salmon to end the seventh, Lopez didn't jog to the dugout. He ran.

"I was excited to get out of the inning, especially with that guy at the plate," Lopez said of Salmon, who has 21 career home runs vs. the Orioles. "It was a tough night. I think it was one of the toughest nights I've pitched."

Teammates met Lopez at the dugout railing, congratulating him on a gritty effort. Buddy Groom recorded one out, Willis Roberts recorded two, and Jorge Julio recorded three for his 17th save.

Ramon Ortiz (8-6) took the hard-luck loss after allowing two runs on five hits in eight innings.

Gibbons hit a two-out homer in the fourth inning off Ortiz and added another bases-empty shot to lead off the ninth against Angels reliever Scott Schoeneweis.

It was Gibbons' first career two-home run game, and it came in front of about 100 friends and family members who made the short drive from his hometown of Long Beach.

"Tonight was the first night we've seen Jay have a real controlled swing in about the last month," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "He's been battling a bad [right] wrist for about a month, and maybe that has something to do with it. Tonight, he didn't overswing."

Gibbons now has 14 home runs for the season, having opened July with a flourish after hitting seven home runs in April, followed by just two in May and three in June.

With Gibbons providing the power, the Orioles survived those early scares when Lopez and Gil fell down, and posted their third shutout victory of the season.

Later, Lopez said he was fine, but Gil jammed his right shoulder on his fall. He finished the game, but Hargrove said, "It wouldn't surprise me if Geronimo doesn't play for the next couple, maybe three games."

Lopez fell down trying to deliver a pitch to the Angels' second batter of the game, Darin Erstad. After slipping on his left foot - the forward and planting foot in his delivery - Lopez lay sprawled out on the mound, face down, for a moment, while his pitch bounced about two-thirds of the way to the plate.

His command problems persisted. He started the fourth inning with eight consecutive balls, walking Troy Glaus and Scott Spiezio before the Orioles caught a break.

Anaheim's next batter, Orlando Palmeiro, immediately tried to bunt, and after fouling one off, he popped up behind home plate. Gil ran back to make the catch and tried stopping himself on the rubber warning track. Suddenly, Gil's cleats went out from under him, and the 6-foot-2 catcher was in a heap next to the backstop for a moment as the runners advanced to second and third.

Gil's right hand and wrist seemed to take the brunt of the fall. Orioles trainer Richie Bancells checked on him, but Gil stayed in the game.

The Angels were in prime position with one out. But Bengie Molina lined out to right fielder Gary Matthews, and Glaus had strayed too far off third base to tag up. Lopez struck out Adam Kennedy to end the inning, with Gil catching a foul tip for strike three and then pumping his fist.

"From that point on," Hargrove said of Lopez, "he was about as good as we've seen him all year."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Edison International Field of Anaheim, Calif.

Time: 10:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson (3-7, 4.66) vs. Angels' Jarrod Washburn (8-2, 3.47)

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