Palmeiro covers his ears, but O's can't plug skid, 7-2


Booed by Toronto fans, DH goes 0-for-4 as O's lose 10th game in past 11



TORONTO - Rafael Palmeiro wore earplugs last night after being booed in his first at-bat at Rogers Centre, more backlash from his steroid-related suspension. Orioles fans might want to reach for the blindfolds.

Rodrigo Lopez allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, an early lead quickly disappearing, and the Toronto Blue Jays rolled past the Orioles, 7-2, before 25,311.

The Orioles (61-70) have lost 10 of 11 and 30 of 42 to fall a season-worst nine games below .500. They got a leadoff home run from Brian Roberts in the first, but Toronto scored four runs in the second on a triple, two singles and two doubles.

Lopez (13-8) had won four of his past five starts, but the Blue Jays pounded him for 11 hits.

"Those guys are pretty good with men on base, especially with runners on second." Lopez said.

Toronto starter David Bush (4-7) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings, struck out seven and walked none for the Blue Jays, who lost eight of their previous 10 games. Every Toronto starter had at least one hit.

Palmeiro went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and received a harsh greeting in his first game in Toronto since the suspension. In his next at-bat, television cameras gave viewers a close-up of an earplug in his left exposed ear. The other ear was covered by a flap on his batting helmet but two plugs sat in his locker.

"I've never really seen that." interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I didn't even noticed it until the last at-bat when somebody said something to me."

Meanwhile, Perlozzo had to do a little damage control concerning Palmeiro, who didn't speak to the media last night.

Perlozzo said he never intended to send the message Monday afternoon that Palmeiro would spend most of the remaining games on the bench, though some media outlets ran with it. He simply wants to play the hottest hands, and so far, Palmeiro has been pretty cold since returning from a 10-day suspension.

"I don't know where that came from." he said.

Palmeiro is 2-for-26 with one RBI in seven games since rejoining the club, a sprained right ankle and slump keeping him idle. He served as the designated hitter last night.

"The only time I really talked to Raffy was when he first came back and he had been out for a while. I said, "I'll work you in there as best I can until you get yourself going a little bit." He's been good with everything." Perlozzo said.

"There are a bunch of us who aren't playing as good as we can play, and as you can see, we"ve been moving guys around, looking for some kind of formula that will pick us up a win here and there. The Raffy thing is a moot point. He"ll play when I think he's swinging the bat good enough and when he's healthy enough. I think he's still got little nagging thing going on. We're trying to protect him a little bit and give him some time to get fully healed. If he swings the bat a little better, he'll be in there."

Roberts back to earth

As he continued to set a torrid offensive pace in the first half, All-Star second baseman Roberts predicted that something like this would happen.

He figured to hit a slump that would pull down his average, which settled at .345 at the break. His power surge, which led to 15 homers then, also would lighten.

Even as he's come down to earth a bit, Roberts, who went 2-for-3 last night, still is hitting .313 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs. He is batting .256 (45-for-176) in the second half.

"I always believed that I was a .300 hitter at this level." he said. 'You don't necessarily want to get there by hitting .390 in the first half and .200 in the second. You"d like to hit .310 the whole year, but that's not going to happen. That's not this game.

"You certainly know that at some point you are going to go through a struggle. You don't anticipate it and you don't look for it, but at some point it's going to happen. I don't care who you are."

Roberts said fatigue hasn't contributed to the decrease in his numbers.

"I was as strong and as ready to go as possible last year and I started 0-for-17." he said. "It's just this game. There's no telling when you're going to be hot and when you're going to go through your struggles."

While noting that pitchers have made adjustments against him, including not throwing as many first-pitch, middle-of-the- plate fastballs that Roberts feasted upon in the first half, he won't use it as an excuse, either.

"I've been here for three years, so it's not like they didn't have a scouting report already." he said. 'I have no idea. It's this game. When you get 700 at-bats, I don't know anybody that has hit .312 from Day One to the end."

Sun staff writer Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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