R. Lopez roughed up in O's 11-0 loss

After excelling as reliever, he allows 6-run 5th inning, falls to Seattle in 1st start

May 21, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- For four innings last night, Rodrigo Lopez had the Orioles wondering why they hadn't put him back in the starting rotation weeks ago.

Seattle Mariners left-hander Jamie Moyer was up to his usual tricks, keeping the Orioles' hitters scoreless, off balance and disillusioned, but Lopez kept matching him, zero for zero.

And then it happened.

Lopez hit a wall, and the sleepless Seattle offense started hitting everything in sight. The Mariners scored six runs in the fifth inning and cruised to an 11-0 victory at Safeco Field.

The Orioles' three-game winning streak ended, and they missed a chance at their first three-game sweep in Seattle since 1997, Meanwhile, the last-place Mariners won for just the second time in 11 games.

Moyer (2-2) continued to torment his former club, allowing seven hits in seven innings. He is 15-2 against the Orioles for his career. Ron Villone pitched the final two innings, and the Orioles finished with their second shutout loss of the season.

"We were playing so well recently, and tonight was just kind of bad all the way around," said Orioles leadoff man Brian Roberts, who went 0-for-5 and failed to execute a key bunt in the third inning. "You want to keep momentum going, especially when you're going in to play Anaheim [tonight], so it's tough."

Lopez (3-2) saw his first start of the season go bad quickly after holding the Mariners hitless for four innings. He came into the game with a 0.33 ERA but was charged with six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, raising that mark to 1.97.

Those first four innings confirmed everything Lopez thought of himself as he excelled in 12 relief appearances to start the season. His longest stint was 4 2/3 innings -- April 21 against Tampa Bay -- and he hadn't thrown more than 54 pitches in one game, but he didn't blame last night's fifth inning on fatigue.

"I don't think that's the case, because I felt pretty good out there," he said.

Lopez had thrown just 38 pitches entering the fifth, and to that point, he had induced five first-pitch outs. But the Mariners stuck with the game plan, attacking him early in the count, and soon it paid off.

Edgar Martinez lined the first pitch of the fifth inning up the middle for a single and Seattle's first hit of the game.

That started the string, and suddenly the struggling Mariners hitters awakened. John Olerud (batting .238, with one home run) drove an inside pitch a few feet to the right of Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro for another single. Then Dan Wilson (.320) muscled a single to right field, loading the bases.

Rich Aurilia (.236, no home runs) stepped in, and Lopez quickly got ahead 1-2. But Aurilia fouled off three pitches and Lopez missed with a fastball and slider, walking home the first run.

"That was a good at-bat by [Aurilia]," Lopez said. "I feel like I got him, but I didn't get the call."

Quinton McCracken flied to left, but playing in for the double play, Palmeiro saw a sharp grounder from Ichiro Suzuki go off his glove, and Olerud scored to make it 2-0. The official scorer originally charged Palmeiro with an error, but later changed it to a hit, so all six runs in the inning were earned.

Palmeiro made a nice play for the second out, throwing home to get Wilson for the force, but Bret Boone delivered the big blow, hitting the first pitch from Lopez through the hole between shortstop and third for a two-run single.

Once again, Lopez felt like he threw the pitch right where he wanted it. "Sometimes that happens," he said. "Too bad it happened tonight, the way I was pitching."

Lopez had thrown 66 pitches, 28 in that inning alone, so Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli went to his bullpen, but John Parrish and Rick Bauer couldn't stop the damage.

The 6-0 lead was more than enough for Moyer. By the third inning, he had the Orioles muttering to themselves. After the first two batters reached that inning, Roberts failed to execute a sacrifice bunt, making contact with the ball but running right into it as he moved up the first base line.

Asked about Lopez in the fifth inning, Mazzilli said, "That wasn't the game. The game is when you don't bunt the guy over. That's the game for me. When the team is struggling to score runs, we had the right situation, we had the right man up, and we didn't bunt him over."

Roberts, who is riding a 3-for-39 slump, agreed, saying, "It's not that hard to bunt, no matter what [Moyer] is doing."

Melvin Mora, who went 2-for-4 to raise his major league-leading average to .386, flied out to center with a defensive swing after Roberts made his out, and then Moyer made Miguel Tejada look helpless in a six-pitch at-bat.

Tejada kept taking vicious swings at the soft offerings from Moyer, swinging through them or fouling them off, and each time he would walk a complete circle back to the batter's box, talking to himself with his cheek muscles clenched.

That at-bat ended, like many others, with Tejada on his front foot, with a pop fly to center field. Remarkably, Tejada would finish the game 0-for-5, making the last out in five innings and stranding five runners.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Calif.)

Time: 10:05

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

Starters: Orioles' Eric DuBose (3-3, 5.20) vs. Angels' Jarrod Washburn (7-1, 4.68)

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