O's drop 4 games under .500

Orioles lose early lead, game for 4th time in row as Rangers triumph, 9-4

August 28, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas - Well aware that his team might have been entering its final series of the season, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove sat in the dugout before last night's game and said he will be satisfied with less than a .500 finish.

With the players' union poised to strike on Friday, the Orioles needed to sweep three games from the Texas Rangers here this week to assure themselves of reaching the break-even mark.

Texas ended those hopes and prevented Rodrigo Lopez from getting his 15th win last night, defeating the Orioles, 9-4, at The Ballpark in Arlington.

With their fourth straight loss, the Orioles remained stuck on last year's win total, at 63-67.

In what could be the final start of his rookie season, Lopez (14-6) allowed five runs on 10 hits in five innings. The Baseball Writers Association of America intends to hand out its postseason awards even if the season ends with a strike, and Lopez remains a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.

But he has lost three of his past five starts.

Tony Batista hit his 26th home run of the season, and Mike Bordick hit his fifth, but the Orioles couldn't recover after blowing an early three-run lead.

Carl Everett matched a career high with four hits for the Rangers, Alex Rodriguez hit his major-league leading 47th home run and Dennys Reyes (2-1), who entered with a 9.24 ERA, went five innings to get the victory.

After reaching the .500 mark last Friday, the Orioles lost three straight games to the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend, including both ends of Saturday's doubleheader.

Hargrove addressed his team following the Sunday loss, reminding the players not to press just because a strike is looming.

Hargrove had no intentions of forcing the issue during this series against the Rangers, either. When the Orioles were here in their final series before the All-Star break, Hargrove admitted he was pushing his team to finish the first half at .500, but this time was different, he said.

"I'm going to play these next three games with the idea that we're going to have baseball after the 30th, and if we don't then, we don't," Hargrove said. "Whatever our record is then, we'll take that. Whether we reach the .500 level or not, I don't think by any stretch of the imagination anybody can term this season not a success. We've been able to accomplish a lot of things we want to accomplish.

"I think we surprised probably everybody in the nation at playing as consistently as we've played. So we've done a lot of good positive things. We still have a lot of things to do, but getting to .500 is not the end-all, be-all."

The Orioles jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Reyes. Melvin Mora drew a leadoff walk, and then Jerry Hairston singled to left field, starting a circus play for the Rangers.

Texas left fielder Kevin Mench bobbled the ball, allowing the runners to advance a base. Mench fired to third, but Rodriguez cut off the ball and tried nabbing Hairston on his way to second. But the throw went into shallow right field, allowing Mora to score.

Hairston scored on a single by Batista, giving Batista a team-high 73 RBIs.

Bordick made it 3-0 with a two-out home run in the second inning, his fifth homer of the season and first since July 15.

Lopez allowed three hits through the first three innings, but got big outs when he needed them using his slider. But the Rangers scored four runs in the fourth inning to take a 4-3 lead.

It marked the fourth consecutive game the Orioles had taken an early lead and lost it by the fifth inning.

This time, the big blow was a three-run homer by Herbert Perry. With runners on first and second, Lopez fell behind in the count 3-0, and after fouling off two pitches, Perry pounded an 86-mph slider over the right-center field wall.

With two outs, the Rangers took the lead on a triple by Michael Young and a run-scoring double by Todd Hollandsworth. Texas added to its lead in the fifth, when Ivan Rodriguez and Carl Everett hit back-to-back, two-out doubles.

Reyes left with a 5-3 lead after allowing six hits and three walks in five innings. Looking for his 15th victory, Lopez allowed five runs on 10 hits in five innings.

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