O's end trip on bumpy ride, 7-1

Jays hammer R. Lopez, whose streak of 6 wins in row disappears over wall

August 06, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - No one expected Rodrigo Lopez to go through the rest of the season without losing a game, though he was beginning to act like he had every intention of doing it.

Logic said it wouldn't happen. The Toronto Blue Jays were more insistent.

The American League's top rookie for July, Lopez looked pretty ordinary yesterday against the Blue Jays. He allowed two home runs in the fourth inning, and an early lead for the Orioles was long forgotten once their 7-1 loss had been completed at SkyDome.

After winning the first two games of the series, the Orioles dropped two straight and returned to Baltimore last night with a 5-6 record on their lengthiest road trip of the year. They split eight games against the teams below them in the division. They also have little recovery time, with the red-hot Minnesota Twins visiting Camden Yards tonight.

"At least we'll be home," said manager Mike Hargrove. "It seems like it's been two months since we've been there."

It seemed that long since Lopez (12-4) was beaten. His last defeat came June 20 in Arizona, when he allowed four runs in six innings. Maybe there's something about retractable domes.

Lopez had won six straight decisions, all of them last month. He went at least six innings in each start, leaving after the sixth on Wednesday with the Orioles comfortably ahead of Tampa Bay. He also was 6-0 in eight starts after an Orioles loss, another streak that ended yesterday.

Hargrove yanked him after the fifth inning when the Blue Jays had increased their lead to 5-1 on a leadoff triple by Jose Cruz and a single by Vernon Wells. Lopez also committed a balk before retiring the last three hitters.

"Everything was up in the strike zone," Hargrove said. "His slider was flat. He overthrew everything and paid the price. You tell them and they try to stop it, but it's just one of those things where it's hard to find a happy medium."

Lopez said his arm didn't feel loose while warming up in the bullpen, and attempts to correct the problem only exacerbated it.

"I felt kind of tight and I was thinking about my mechanics and trying to get the ball down," he said. "My mechanics were fine. It's just that my arm was kind of slow."

Asked about the possibility of a dead-arm period after a busy winter-league season and throwing 139 2/3 innings for the Orioles, Lopez said: "I don't want to think that. I'm trying to work hard to get myself in shape, and I don't think it's that. We'll see."

Residents of Toronto celebrated a civic holiday known as "Simcoe Day," and the Orioles gave Cruz a gift triple that didn't help Lopez's cause. The ball glanced off the glove of second baseman Jerry Hairston in shallow right field as Gary Matthews pulled up at the last instant.

"It's one of those plays where you try to find an angle so it's not right in the sun," Hairston said. "Sometimes it was going in the sun and sometimes it wasn't. You just try to run after it and catch it, and I didn't catch it. If I get a glove on it, I should catch it."

There was nothing cheap about Chris Woodward's home run leading off the fourth, or the first major-league homer for Orlando Hudson, which came after Dave Berg's triple. Berg's hit also could have been caught, but it popped out of Matthews' glove as he slid along the warning track.

The Orioles also couldn't catch a break the past two days. They lost a run in the fourth when Marty Cordova's double took a big hop off the artificial surface and disappeared over the fence in right-center field, forcing Chris Richard to hold at third. Jose Leon walked to load the bases with two outs, but Geronimo Gil lined out to right.

It seemed that every bounce favored the Blue Jays, perhaps because the Orioles aren't accustomed to playing on a trampoline. Toronto's batters reached without the ball leaving the infield. The Orioles were denied when balls left the outfield.

"Things just didn't go our way," Hairston said. "They were able to find all the holes."

The Blue Jays tied the score with two outs in the third inning when Eric Hinske walked and Cruz lined a double into right field. Matthews couldn't pick up the ball on his first attempt, and Hinske scored from first.

Matthews walked to lead off the sixth, but was stranded when left fielder Dewayne Wise ran down Richard's fly ball in the corner. Shannon Stewart, often criticized in Toronto for his poor defensive instincts and weak arm, had started the past three games in left and might not have made the play.

Melvin Mora hit his fourth leadoff homer this season, reaching the nearly empty second deck with a shot estimated at 426 feet. It also was the only run off Steve Parris (5-2), who gave up six hits over eight innings. He hasn't lost since July 1 in Boston.

"They didn't miss Rodrigo's mistakes and we missed all of Parris' mistakes," Hargrove said. "He made a lot of them. He threw the ball in the middle of the plate a lot of times today, and we just missed them."

Mora's homer was only the second Parris has allowed in his past seven starts covering 42 2/3 innings. Mora ran his total to 15, matching his career output coming into the season.

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