Still silent, O's fall to Red Sox, 1-0

Lopez gets loss

scoreless streak is 21 innings

April 22, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The run hung over Rodrigo Lopez's head like the roof his team will be playing under in Toronto.

The Boston Red Sox took an early lead against Lopez last night, a margin that seemed insignificant given the Orioles' ability to strike with such brute force. But it grew in importance as the innings passed, and Lopez had to accept a 1-0 loss before 40,419 at Camden Yards that, hours after the final out, continued to hang just as heavily as the run.

Blanked for two straight games, the Orioles boarded their charter for Canada last night wondering if their bats would make it through customs.

They couldn't break through against Red Sox starters David Wells and Matt Clement and haven't scored in 21 consecutive innings.

"We ran into a couple good pitchers the last two games," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "Unfortunately, someone's got to lose."

The Orioles were the chosen ones.

Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada reached on infield hits with two outs in the eighth inning, but Clement nabbed Sammy Sosa's sharp bouncer and threw to first. Javy Lopez doubled off closer Keith Foulke with one out in the ninth, but pinch runner David Newhan was stranded.

"You figure someone's going to sneak one out or something," Jay Gibbons said. "That's two great pitching performances to shut this lineup out."

The Orioles came within an umpire's call of tying the game in the fourth.

Rafael Palmeiro, in a 4-for-30 slump, beat an infield shift by grounding a single to the vacant area at third base. With two outs, Gibbons lined a double down the right-field line, and Palmeiro attempted to score as Trot Nixon struggled to retrieve the ball.

Varitek took first baseman Kevin Millar's relay and tagged Palmeiro, whose left foot appeared to touch the plate before Varitek's mitt. Umpire Bill Welke ruled Palmeiro out, bringing a mild argument from Mazzilli.

Palmeiro hopped in the air in protest, and Luis Matos, the next scheduled hitter, spun away in disbelief.

"It was bang-bang ... but I thought my foot was in there," Palmeiro said.

Said Mazzilli: "I looked at the replay three or four times, and it was a tough call."

The Red Sox knew runs would be scarce against Lopez, who went eight innings. He was 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in seven games against them last season, 8-3 with a 3.73 ERA for his career.

Millar was 4-for-23 against Lopez, but he led off the second with a double to left field and later scored on a groundout. Millar had taken third on Tejada's throwing error as Varitek reached on an infield hit, making the run unearned.

"I was thinking, `I can't lose, 1-0,' " Lopez said.

Lopez kept the Red Sox confused most of the night. He had six strikeouts, all looking.

"We tried to get him a win. He deserved that," Mazzilli said. "But we came up short."

Boston threatened in the fourth after a one-out single by Varitek and a walk to Edgar Renteria, but Lopez retired the next nine batters.

The score stayed the same, as did Lopez's offensive support.

"That was one of my best games here," he said. "I feel pretty good about it, just a little bit of frustration."

Lopez watched from the dugout as clutch hits eluded the Orioles. Gibbons' fly ball in the seventh pushed Nixon to the warning track in right and Johnny Damon ran down Larry Bigbie's drive on the center-field track in the eighth.

There always seemed to be hope, just no runs.

"I thought it was at least off the wall," Gibbons said. "I thought Trot was deking me. It just wasn't our night."

It usually isn't against Clement, who improved to 3-0 with a 0.89 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles. All three of his wins have come with different teams, including the Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs.

The Red Sox signed Clement to a three-year, $25.5 million contract over the winter, a cost the Orioles had no interest in approaching.

"With a team like Baltimore, if you aren't aggressive, you're going to see a 5-spot on the scoreboard real quick. Some balls are going to get crushed," he said. "I was just trying to make some quality pitches."

The Orioles put the leadoff hitter on base in the second, third and sixth innings. Mora opened the sixth with a single into center field, but Tejada bounced into a double play.

Tejada began the night leading the American League with 19 RBIs. He also stranded two runners in the third by grounding into a force.

Sosa walked after the sixth-inning double play, bringing Palmeiro into focus once more. He fell behind 0-2, checked his swing on a high fastball and flied to center.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site, time: Rogers Centre, Toronto, 7:07

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

Starters: Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (1-1, 7.53) vs. Blue Jays' Josh Towers (1-1, 5.52)

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