6-run 4th drives O's, Lopez by White Sox

10-4 romp gives rookie 10th win

Matthews blast ties it, reaches Eutaw St.

July 20, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The softer portion of the Orioles' schedule no longer feels like a bag of rocks.

Taking advantage of a team that's reeling after failing to do so in their last two games, the Orioles overcame adversity and two deficits to claim a 10-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox last night before 36,949 at Camden Yards.

Gary Matthews hit his fifth home run for the Orioles, who were swept in their abbreviated series in Toronto before returning home. He became the 28th player to reach Eutaw Street and the second this season, joining Los Angeles' Shawn Green.

The Orioles broke a 3-3 tie with six runs in the fourth off Chicago starter Jon Garland (8-7), who didn't record an out, and reliever Matt Ginter. Six consecutive batters reached to begin the inning, including Luis Lopez, a late addition after Jerry Hairston's ejection.

Chris Singleton drove in two runs with a single off Ginter. Lopez, Geronimo Gil and Jay Gibbons had RBI singles, as the Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate.

Attempting to become the club's first rookie 10-game winner since Rocky Coppinger in 1996, Rodrigo Lopez served up a home run to the first batter he faced, Kenny Lofton. He surrendered another in the third, Magglio Ordonez's two-run shot that gave the White Sox a 3-2 lead before Matthews connected in the bottom half. The Orioles never trailed again.

Leaders of their division in late May, the White Sox have gone 17-33 since then and are 12 games behind first-place Minnesota. Plenty of veterans have been made available as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, including Lofton, who deposited a 3-1 fastball from Lopez onto the flag court in right field for his second leadoff homer in two nights.

Lopez (10-3) heated up at the same time as the Orioles' bats. He retired 12 of 14 after the Ordonez home run, and his eight strikeouts were a career high. He also improved to 4-0 after an Orioles loss.

"I feel really lucky," said Lopez, who went seven innings to win his fourth straight start. "I guess they saw that I had been working all those years in the minor leagues and also in Mexico, and that meant something."

So did getting six runs in the fourth. "That helped a lot," he said.

The win held special significance for Melvin Mora, who had committed an error in three straight games since replacing injured shortstop Mike Bordick. The streak ended last night, with Mora handling every chance cleanly.

Mora conceded there's an adjustment period after making 59 starts in the outfield.

"Day by day I'm going to be more comfortable over there," he said. "It's not easy when you have your outfield legs and then go back to the infield. It's different moves. But I'll be better. It's going to take a week, maybe next, to feel my legs at shortstop again because it's been a while since I've played that position."

Mora also avoided being hit after three pitches nailed him during the previous night's loss in Toronto, but he still had issues. He collapsed after making a throw from the edge of the outfield grass to retire Paul Konerko and end the third inning. The ball struck Mora in the groin as he gathered it.

Trainer Richie Bancells raced to Mora's aid, and he eventually made a slow walk to the dugout.

If Mora couldn't have continued, Tony Batista would have moved to short, with Jose Leon taking over at third. And manager Mike Hargrove would have spent the rest of the game chewing his nails.

Hargrove nearly lost his double-play combination, and another reserve for his bench, because Hairston already had been ejected in the second inning. Hairston had to be restrained by Rick Dempsey, who applied a bear hug, after first base umpire Joe West ruled that Hairston started toward second upon reaching on Jose Valentin's throwing error.

Konerko tagged Hairston, who turned toward second after crossing the bag. Lopez replaced him, making it more necessary for Mora to stay in.

"Jerry made a move to go to second base when he saw the ball was overthrown," Hargrove said. "Jerry didn't think he did, but he did. It was like an exaggerated flinch. It wasn't a big move, but it was a move in that direction and Joe West made the right call."

Howie Clark wasn't an option in the field since he started again as the designated hitter. He's been in the lineup for four straight games since the Orioles purchased his contract from Triple-A Rochester, and extended his hitting streak the same length with a double in the fourth inning as part of the tie-breaking rally.

"Pure and simple, he is a hitter," Hargrove said of Clark. "He stays back well, he uses the whole field, he doesn't strike out a lot. He's just a solid, good hitter."

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