Lopez rolls up fading Sox, 9-2

O's rookie strikes out 8 for his 5th in row

Boston hears it from Fenway fans

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

BOSTON - The Orioles knew they did their jobs last night. They could hear it in the groans.

On a cool evening at Fenway Park, an angry crowd let the Boston Red Sox have it on several occasions, and these weren't just the sounds of one poorly played game. They were the sounds of a city seeing its team lose steam in the American League playoff chase.

Rodrigo Lopez tossed eight strong innings to win his fifth consecutive start, and the Orioles battered Red Sox starter Rolando Arrojo for a 9-2 victory that broke their three-game losing streak.

The 40th sellout crowd of the season at Fenway - 33,840 strong - watched with great displeasure as the Red Sox looked lackadaisical all night and lost for the ninth time in their past 15 games.

"They don't realize we're playing pretty good," said Melvin Mora, who had three of the Orioles' 16 hits. "They're thinking, `Why are you letting a young team beat you?' But the thing is, we know how to play baseball. We don't have the big payroll, but we know what to do."

With any luck, these will be the sounds the Orioles hear the rest of the summer.

As they strive to reach .500, another measure of their success will be their ability to play spoilers in the pennant race. They still have eight games remaining with the Red Sox and seven with the New York Yankees.

Lopez (11-3) alone is striking fear in Boston's collective heart. The Orioles are 4-6 against the Red Sox this season, and three of those victories belong to him. In fact, he is 3-0 against the Red Sox with a 1.96 ERA.

This time he allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits.

"I can't believe he isn't getting any play for Rookie of the Year," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "It seems like everyone's in love with [Eric] Hinske from Toronto right now, so we'll just keep doing what we're doing and let the chips fall where they may."

The Orioles scored five runs in the third inning before Arrojo recorded a single out, as the first six batters reached base. When Arrojo finally retired Tony Batista on a grounder to third base, the Fenway cynics offered mock applause.

By that time, the damage was done. Mora and Howie Clark had back-to-back two-run doubles, and Gary Matthews scored Clark with a single. Arrojo (4-3) might have been at a disadvantage. In the second inning, Jay Gibbons smashed a single off the pitcher's right calf, and Arrojo left after three innings with a bruise.

Nothing the Red Sox did in the early going looked easy, not even the routine ground balls.

Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra fired a ball into the dirt to end the third inning, but first baseman Brian Daubach made the scoop, averting further damage. Daubach also rescued low throws by third baseman Shea Hillenbrand in the fourth and the sixth.

Trailing the Yankees by four games in the AL East, and the Anaheim Angels by one game in the wild-card race heading into the night, the Red Sox looked ragged at an inopportune time. The scoreboard showed no errors for Boston, but the fans knew better.

The Red Sox showed signs of life in the fourth inning, when they scored two runs, but even that was an adventure.

Trot Nixon reached on an infield hit, and Garciaparra followed with a double to deep center field, scoring Nixon. With two outs, Jason Varitek scored Garciaparra with a single, trimming the Orioles' lead to 5-2.

The Red Sox had the momentum, but Gibbons came right back with a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

Lopez appreciated the insurance, but he really didn't need it. He finished with one walk and eight strikeouts, matching his season high from his previous start.

Daubach singled to start the third inning, but that threat ended when Jose Offerman made a foolish base-running play.

With one out, Rey Sanchez hit a lazy fly to right field, and Offerman failed to tag up at first base, allowing right fielder Matthews to throw behind him for the double play.

Two innings later, the Red Sox faithful had some more mock applause for Offerman, when he remembered to tag up at first base on Sanchez's pop fly to second baseman Jerry Hairston.

"We did make a couple bonehead mistakes out there tonight," said Red Sox manager Grady Little. "A lot of times you may see those things when you're facing a pitcher that has your number."

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