O's lower broom on Tigers, finish series, season sweep

R. Lopez pitches three-hitter

Tejada, Surhoff hit homers in 5-0 victory over Detroit

September 27, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The finish line is close and third place in the American League East is practically clinched, but the Orioles continue to play like a team that wants nothing to do with the end of this baseball season.

They are doing all the little things, like taking the extra base and playing sound defense, while leaving the bigger things to their starting pitching and shortstop Miguel Tejada.

In a 5-0 victory yesterday over the Detroit Tigers before 41,718 at Camden Yards, starter Rodrigo Lopez pitched a three-hitter and Tejada drove in three runs, giving him 142 RBIs for the season, tying the team's single-season mark, as the Orioles completed a three-game series and six-game season sweep of Detroit.

Tejada got things started for the Orioles after a pre-game ceremony in which the team honored 50 of its all-time best players. His two-run, 402-foot blast to left field off Detroit starter Mike Maroth gave the Orioles a 2-0 first-inning lead, and Lopez (14-8) needed only 104 pitches and a little more than two hours to work through the Tigers.

"I took the field, and I felt like I was one of those guys," said Tejada, sporting an ear-to-ear grin, when asked about seeing all the all-time Orioles, which included one of his heroes, Cal Ripken. "Right now, I'm just happy to see the way that we've been playing. We've played good baseball."

The Orioles won their fourth straight game to improve to 74-80, and with the last-place Toronto Blue Jays coming to town for a four-game set followed by four more with the Boston Red Sox to close the season, the team needs a 7-1 finish for the .500 mark.

The Orioles and Tigers (68-86) have played each other at least six times each season since 1954, but this year marked the first time one team registered a season sweep.

Perhaps understating things slightly, Tigers manager Alan Trammell said: "There was just a little too much Miguel Tejada in this series."

Trammell's take easily could have applied to his team's season series with the Orioles. Against the Tigers this year, Tejada, who beat Detroit on Friday with a three-run, walkoff homer, was 13-for-24 with four home runs and 11 RBIs. He reached base in 17 of 28 plate appearances.

"He needs to get consideration for MVP," said Rafael Palmeiro, who had a double and an RBI yesterday. "He better be in the top three, that's all I say. Nobody can come close to those numbers. ... That's a lot of RBIs."

Palmeiro would know. He set the team's single-season RBI mark of 142 in 1996 and held it by himself until yesterday, when Tejada (3-for-4) singled in Tim Raines Jr. in the eighth inning.

"I was real happy to do it in front of [Palmeiro]," said Tejada. "For a long time, he's been telling me that I am the guy that is going to break it."

It wasn't just Tejada yesterday. In fact, the Orioles relied on the same formula that worked so well all series.

There was the early offensive surge, which started with Tejada and then expanded to B.J. Surhoff, who pulled an inside fastball by Maroth (11-12) onto the flag court for a second-inning, bases-empty homer. Eight of the team's 15 runs against the Tigers this weekend came in the first or second innings.

Then there was the pitching. Authoring a fine follow-up to Matt Riley's six-inning, two-hit effort Saturday, Lopez kept the Tigers off balance with a variety of pitches, though his changeup particularly stood out.

The Tigers were held without a run for the last 21 innings of the series.

Lopez, who leads the staff with 14 wins, retired the first seven Tigers before two straight hits by Jason Smith and Nook Logan in the third. But he then struck out Omar Infante and Bobby Higginson and went on to retire seven more Tigers in succession.

"He was tremendous," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "He used all his pitches. He got ahead. It just seemed like he was in complete control from start to finish."

It was Lopez's second career shutout and his fifth career complete game. He has won four straight decisions - his ERA is 2.91 in his past seven starts - and hasn't suffered a loss since Aug. 17 against Oakland.

With his fastball still hitting the low 90s, Lopez closed out the Tigers with a 1-2-3 ninth.

"I felt pretty strong," said Lopez. "The ball seemed to be jumping out of my hand."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

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

Starters: Blue Jays' Roy Halladay (7-8, 4.43) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (11-14, 5.30)

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