A. Rodriguez, Rangers overpower O's, 11-2

Shortstop hits 2 homers, has 50 for 2nd year in row

September 06, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Seemingly unable to help themselves these days, the Orioles made one final contribution to the Alex Rodriguez for MVP campaign last night.

If this were politics, the Orioles could expect a call today from Miguel Tejada's people for such blatant favoritism.

Rodriguez hit two home runs, becoming the fifth player in major-league history to reach the 50-home run plateau in consecutive seasons, as the Texas Rangers leveled the Orioles, 11-2, before 29,964 at Camden Yards.

The Rangers continued to fatten themselves off Orioles pitching, especially Jason Johnson, as they combined to hit five home runs.

After ending their 10-game losing streak Wednesday night, the Orioles went right back to their perplexing ways. They finished 3-9 in their season series with the Rangers, who have been stuck in last place in the American League West.

It's not exactly a confidence boost considering their next 10 games will come against the Anaheim Angels, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said Johnson was sick to his stomach and that it might have contributed to the poor performance. Johnson lasted just 2 2/3 innings and was charged with six runs on five hits.

"He came in between innings, and I don't know if he threw up or what," Hargrove said. "He said he was fine and went out for the third [inning]. His stuff was good, his velocity was good, but it was real obvious fairly quickly that he wasn't all there physically. The doctor gave him some medication and sent him home."

At 4-12, Johnson's record alone is enough to make club officials ill. They had hoped this would be his breakout season, but after going 1-10 and 10-12 the past two seasons, his numbers suggest he has taken a step back.

Johnson had exceptional velocity last night, with his fastball hitting 96 mph on the stadium radar gun, but he couldn't seem to harness the pitch after striking out Todd Hollandsworth on three pitches to start the game.

Michael Young drew a seven-pitch walk, as Johnson lost him after being ahead in the count with one ball and two strikes. Rodriguez made Johnson pay immediately, belting a 95-mph fastball over the center-field wall for his 49th home run.

Rodriguez just missed having his third-career three-homer game when he flied out to the center-field warning track in the eighth inning.

"You just can't throw A-Rod in the middle of the plate, up in the zone, and that's what we did," Hargrove said.

Chris Brock began getting loose in the Orioles' bullpen after the second inning, but after returning from the tunnel, Johnson convinced Hargrove he could keep pitching. He struck out Young with a 94-mph fastball, and then Rodriguez struck again.

Johnson threw pretty much the same pitch - an 0-1 fastball - and Rodriguez hit it an estimated 412 feet into the left-field seats.

With that home run, Rodriguez joined some elite company of sluggers who have had back-to-back 50-homer seasons: Mark McGwire (1996-1999), Sammy Sosa (1998-2001), Babe Ruth (1920-1921 and 1927-1928) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1997-1998).

"It's obviously very special," Rodriguez said. "I work very hard, and I understand the history of this game."

Rodriguez, a Most Valuable Player candidate stuck on a last-place team, has five home runs against the Orioles this season. Tejada, the shortstop who has propelled the Oakland Athletics during their 20-game winning streak, had just two home runs in nine games against the Orioles.

For his career against Johnson, Rodriguez is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with three home runs.

"I love Camden Yards," Rodriguez said. "It's a great place to play baseball."

Johnson's problems extended beyond Rodriguez. The final three batters he faced all reached base, and Hargrove replaced him after Kevin Mench drew a four-pitch walk.

Johnson, 1-7 since the All-Star break, is 0-3 with a 10.53 ERA in his past three starts.

The bullpen didn't fare much better. Brock inherited two runners from Johnson and both scored when Ruben Rivera blooped a double into left field.

The Rangers had three home runs in the fifth inning alone, as Carl Everett hit a bases-empty shot and Hollandsworth hit a three-run shot off Brock. Yorkis Perez came on in relief, and Young hit his first pitch over the left-field wall to make it 11-1 Texas.

The five home runs allowed matched a season high for the Orioles, who also gave up that many against the New York Yankees on April 17.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

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

Starters: Angels' John Lackey (7-3, 3.24) vs. Orioles' Sean Douglass (0-1, 5.08)

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