Sosa surges, still has way to go

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

It's `no time to celebrate,' slugger says after his first two-homer game with O's

Notebook

April 25, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - He has shown glimpses of his legendary power since donning his new jersey, but 18 games into his first season as an Oriole, Sammy Sosa had yet to deliver a vintage performance.

That changed yesterday when Sosa slammed two bases-empty homers - his third and fourth of the season - in the Orioles' 7-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, completing a three-game sweep at the Rogers Centre.

The first was a 381-foot shot to right field off Toronto starter Roy Halladay, giving the Orioles a 5-0 lead. The second came off reliever Justin Speier and was a 421-footer that caromed off the second deck in the ninth inning.

It marked Sosa's first multi-homer game as an Oriole, but the 67th of his career. That ties him with Mark McGwire for third all-time in that category, behind just Babe Ruth (72) and Barry Bonds (68).

"On one side, it's very nice to be in that category, but right now, for myself, I have no time to celebrate," Sosa said. "It's just the beginning of the year. There's still a long way to go."

That has been Sosa's mantra all season, even after going homer-less for the first six games. After getting three hits yesterday, Sosa's average jumped to .299, and he seemingly doesn't care that his homers haven't come in bunches so far.

"It doesn't matter how many strikeouts or how many [hitless games] I have," he said. "As long as I have a chance to go to the plate, I am going to fight for my at-bat."

Sosa's home runs were the 577th and 578th of his career.

J. Lopez gets defensive

Orioles catcher Javy Lopez was sitting at his locker before yesterday's game when reporters dropped by and asked him about his defense.

"My defense?" said Lopez, jokingly, not used to such a line of questioning.

The second-year Oriole, known primarily for his bat, had the day off yesterday after making two big defensive plays in Saturday's 4-1 victory by the Orioles. Lopez threw out Reed Johnson trying to steal in a one-run game in the sixth inning, then skillfully blocked the plate, taking B.J. Surhoff's throw and tagging out Alex Rios to preserve a 1-0 lead in the seventh.

"I think I've made some big defensive plays that have been helpful toward this season," Lopez said. "I am happy with the way I've been playing defense."

Lopez has battled elbow and back pain since the spring. "I still feel the pain, believe me, but during the game you are not thinking about it," he said.

He has thrown out three of nine would-be base stealers. Last year, he caught 20 of 88 runners (22.7 percent) attempting to steal - the 18th-best percentage in the majors.

"I like to hear when people say I've been doing very well defensively," Lopez said. "That's the one negative thing I hear from everybody. It's something I don't think is fair. I think I am right there with other catchers that don't have that reputation [of struggling defensively] that I have."

Roberts' mistake not costly

Leadoff man Brian Roberts was attempting to steal second on a hit-and-run in the first inning yesterday when Melvin Mora bounced a chopper down the third base line. Thinking the ball was foul, Roberts ran through second base and stopped, getting ready to retreat back to first.

"I saw the ball, but it was rolling in foul territory and nobody was going after it," Roberts said. "I thought it was foul."

The ball, however, was fair. Orioles third base coach Tom Trebelhorn finally got Roberts' attention and Roberts scampered to third but was unable to score on Mora's double.

It didn't matter because the next batter, Miguel Tejada, lined a single that scored Roberts and Mora, adding two RBIs - instead of one because Roberts would have scored easily if he hadn't stopped - to the Orioles shortstop's major league-leading total of 22.

"I told him he owed me one," Roberts said. "He said he'd buy me dinner sometime."

De ja Blue Jays

The Orioles' three-game sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto was reminiscent of their series there last April:

2004 Score 2005 Score

4/16 O's, 11-2 4/22 O's, 13-5

4/17 O's, 5-3 4/23 O's, 4-1

4/18 O's, 7-0 4/24 O's, 7-1

Tot. O's, 23-5 Tot. O's, 24-7

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