Mazzilli stands behind Lopez

Pitcher `absolutely' will get another start after O's 11-0 defeat Thursday

He took shutout into 6-run 5th

Manager is more irked by Roberts' failed bunt

May 22, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Late Orioles game: Last night's game between the Orioles and Angels in Anaheim, Calif., ended too late to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at www. baltimoresun.com.

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Nothing about Thursday night's 11-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners changed the Orioles' new line of thinking regarding Rodrigo Lopez.

Sure, he sputtered after four no-hit innings - a predictable breaking point, given his track record in 12 previous relief appearances - but they are eager to give him another try next week.

"Absolutely," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I thought he threw the ball real well."

In a game in which Seattle Mariners left-hander Jamie Moyer kept the Orioles from reaching third base for seven innings, Lopez seemed up to the task, holding Seattle scoreless with just 38 pitches heading into the fifth.

Then the Mariners had an awakening. They had scored fewer runs than any team in baseball, but they busted loose with six runs in a wild fifth inning, chasing Lopez from the game.

Lopez (3-2) came into the game with a microscopic 0.33 ERA, but was charged with six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, raising that mark to 1.97.

But the way it happened, with four singles - none of them hit especially hard - and a bases-loaded walk to Rich Aurilia, left Lopez shrugging his shoulders rather than slamming his fist through a wall.

"Sometimes that happens, he said. "Too bad it happened tonight, the way I was pitching."

Of the 12 appearances Lopez had made in relief this season, none of them had lasted longer than 4 2/3 innings, and none of them had seen him throw more than 54 pitches.

But he didn't blame fatigue for what happened in the fifth. "I don't think that's the case," he said, "because I felt pretty good out there."

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

That started the string, and suddenly the Mariners' hitters started overcoming their season-long struggles. 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 with Palmeiro playing in for the double play, a sharp grounder from Ichiro Suzuki went off his glove. The fleet-footed Suzuki beat Lopez to the bag, and Palmeiro had no play, as 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.

Then with two outs, Bret Boone delivered the big blow, hitting the first pitch from Lopez through the hole between shortstop and third for a two-run single.

It was the 65th pitch of the night for Lopez, who threw it right where he wanted it, but Mazzilli had seen enough and pulled him from the game. John Parrish inherited two runners, both of whom scored.

Afterward, Mazzilli took two questions about Lopez, and changed the subject. His thoughts were still focused on the third inning, when struggling leadoff man Brian Roberts failed to execute a sacrifice bunt after the first two batters of the inning had reached base against Moyer.

"That wasn't the game," Mazzilli said of Lopez's fifth-inning struggle. "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."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Calif.)

Time: 10:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (3-3, 5.69) vs. Angels' Kelvim Escobar (2-2, 4.78)

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