Lopez sends O's skid flying

Homer in 8th foils Rangers to end six-game slide, 5-4

Catcher just returned Monday

July 27, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The hardest part were the road trips when Javy Lopez stayed at home and rehabbed a broken right hand, leaving his teammates to defend first place with a major void in their lineup.

Lopez missed nearly two months with the injury before rejoining a lineup Monday that was badly in need of a jolt. On a steamy night in Baltimore, at a time when the Orioles had blown a three-run lead, Lopez provided it.

He jumped all over a fastball from former teammate James Baldwin, his drive to center field breaking a tie and the Orioles' six-game losing streak in a 5-4 win over the Texas Rangers last night before 25,235 at Camden Yards.

"At some point, I didn't even feel like part of the team," said Lopez, who went 3-for-4 after going hitless Monday. "It's hard when you don't have that feeling. I feel like I owe the team something."

Lopez's blast went 405 feet, giving the catcher his eighth home run of the season and his first since May 10.

B.J. Ryan, who had blown his last two save chances, came on in the ninth and retired the side for his 22nd save, and the Orioles (51-48) had their first win since July 18.

"One thing I like about this team is nobody quits," said Orioles outfielder Sammy Sosa. "There's still a long way to go and right now we need some support. In the first half, everyone was having a good time, but it's not only that, we need some support in the bad times. Right now, hopefully, they'll give it to us and we'll be there in September.

Sosa was booed after grounding into a fielder's choice in the first inning. He turned those to cheers, however, when he hammered Kenny Rogers' 1-0 changeup for a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

The homer was Sosa's 12th of the season and the 586th of his career, tying Frank Robinson for fifth place on the all-time list.

"Right now, it's no time to celebrate," said Sosa, who has opened his batting stance slightly. "I've made an adjustment. When you're a great hitter, you've always got to find a way to get it done. ... I found something. You will see the difference."

Sosa's two-run blast gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead, one that the bullpen couldn't hold. Chris Ray relieved Rodrigo Lopez in the seventh and David Dellucci singled in Gary Matthews, who had two doubles and a homer last night, and the lead was trimmed to one run.

Lopez pitched well again, going 6 1/3 and throwing 106 pitches in the intense heat. He allowed six hits and three earned runs.

"It felt like it was 130 [degrees] out there," said Rodrigo Lopez. "I was trying to take my breath on the bench, but I kept sweating and sweating. In the second inning, I told Javy that it was like I had already thrown a complete game."

The heat also claimed Eli Marrero, who left the game in the third inning after getting thrown out at the plate trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli allowed his players to report to Camden Yards at 5:30 p.m., eschewing batting practice to try to change his struggling lineup's fortunes and keeping his players out of the heat.

He'll do the same again today, intent on staying with what works. Luis Matos added a homer and the Orioles had nine hits, eight off Rogers, who pitched while awaiting his appeal on a 20-game suspension for his assault on two cameramen last month.

Orioles reliever Steve Kline served his four-game suspension and was given the ball in the eighth with a 4-3 lead.

He promptly made a good pitch to Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira, but the Severna Park native hit a 25-footer in front of the plate. Kline and catcher Lopez both went for it, and bumped as Kline let go an errant throw to first and Teixeira eased into second.

Hank Blalock followed with a single, putting men on first and third and Kline was out gone, removed to a chorus of boos.

"That's like every day," said Kline. "I am used to that. You can't blame them."

Jason Grimsley came on and uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Teixeira to score. But he got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by getting Matthews to hit into a double play. Miguel Tejada leaped to grab Brian Roberts' flip, stepped on the bag and then fired to first and the Orioles got out of the inning with the game tied.

"There's not many shortstops that make that play," said Mazzilli.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:05

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

Starters: Rangers' Chris Young (8-6, 4.30) vs. Orioles' Bruce Chen (7-6, 4.09)

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