Roberts steals show as O's stop Sox, 10-3

His 4 steals, 4 runs pace attack

Lopez yields 1 hit in relief to tame Chicago

Both put in claims for jobs

`I still have my hopes of coming back' to rotation

May 05, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is trying to save his job, and Rodrigo Lopez wants his old job back, so last night's 10-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox had to go down as a statement game for both of them.

But for one night, the questions about Roberts vs. Jerry Hairston, and Rodrigo Lopez vs. the rest of the starting rotation could wait.

The Orioles were just happy to have Roberts and Lopez on their side somewhere, as they broke a three-game losing streak before 21,488 at Camden Yards.

Roberts reached base five times, matched a club record with four stolen bases and scored four runs.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli turned to Lopez to protect a 7-3 lead when starter Eric DuBose faltered in the fifth inning, and over the next four innings, the White Sox managed just one hit.

Lopez (2-1) came in with the second-best ERA of any reliever in baseball, at 0.46, and lowered that mark to 0.38.

"I can't put a value on what he's doing," Mazzilli said. "Even the guys on the bench, when they see him come in, I don't know, it's just that feeling that he's going to get the job done in crucial times."

Before Lopez entered the game, the Orioles had done their share of damage against starter Esteban Loaiza, who finished runner-up last year in the American League Cy Young voting.

With Roberts setting the pace, the Orioles clobbered Loaiza for 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Loaiza (4-1) was charged with eight runs, but just four were earned.

The Orioles got their big break with the score tied 3-3 in the fourth inning. With two outs and runners at second and third, Roberts hit a grounder that hopped between the legs of shortstop Kelly Dransfeldt.

Two runs scored on the play, and the Orioles made it sting even worse, when Miguel Tejada hit a two-run single up the middle for a 7-3 lead. Time was stopped, so the Orioles could collect the ball because it was the 1,000th hit of Tejada's career.

Tejada finished with three RBIs. Rafael Palmeiro had two.

Roberts spent the night wreaking havoc on the bases, as he scored the first four times he came to the plate. He came in with nine stolen bases on the season, and raised that to 13, which is one less than AL leader Carl Crawford of Tampa Bay.

"He's not only getting on base," Palmeiro said. "He's creating some problems out there for the pitcher."

Hairston, who broke his right ring finger in the first exhibition game, will begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment today for Double-A Bowie, and he should be ready to come back in about a week.

His return will force Mazzilli into a very tough decision. The Orioles say they can have both Roberts and Hairston in the lineup - one at second base and one at designated hitter - but only one of them can bat leadoff.

"My job is on the field at this point," Roberts said. "Those decisions are why we have general managers and managers. Those are their decisions, and I'll leave it up to them."

But Roberts is making a compelling case for himself. He has an eight-game hitting streak and has hit .457 in that span.

Mazzilli has given Roberts the green light to steal whenever he wants, and that's the first time Roberts has had that luxury in his major league career.

"That's how I had it coming through college and the minor leagues," Roberts said. "Up here, it's been a little different. For him to have that confidence in me is great."

Loaiza has a relatively quick delivery to home plate, and the White Sox had the strong-throwing Miguel Olivo at catcher last night, but Roberts still picked his spots brilliantly.

"That's the key," Mazzilli said. "You don't want to run yourself into outs, and he made the right decisions."

The White Sox, who have hit at least one home run in 15 consecutive games, got a two-run homer from Magglio Ordonez in the first inning and a bases-empty homer from Joe Crede in the fourth inning.

DuBose had gone three straight starts without giving up a home run after giving up four in his first two games. In his past three starts, DuBose was 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA, but this time he allowed three runs on four hits, raising his ERA to 3.47.

But for the ninth time, Mazzilli turned a game over to Lopez, and he delivered again.

"I still have my hopes of coming back [into the rotation]," Lopez said. "I know it could be right now or later in the season. Right now, I just need to try to get people out."

Said Mazzilli: "I'm proud of him, I really am because he very easily could have gone the other way. It shows you the kind of character he has. That doesn't go unnoticed, believe me."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Chicago White Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

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

Starters: White Sox's Mark Buehrle (1-1, 5.35) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (2-2, 6.29)

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