O's Lopez battery loses its charge

Starter yields 3 HRs in 1st loss since pairing

Blue Jays 6 Orioles 3

June 15, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

TORONTO -- Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez's revival came to a screeching halt here last night, with one line drive after another coming off Toronto Blue Jays' bats and his personal catcher, Javy Lopez, powerless to do anything about it.

The first two batters Lopez faced last night hit home runs and before his rocky evening was finished, he would surrender another long ball, resorting to the pitcher that the Orioles saw for the first month and a half of the season and didn't want to see again. Lopez allowed seven hits and six runs in his first loss since May 20, a 6-3 Toronto victory, in front of 23,325 at the Rogers Centre.

The club's Opening Day starter lasted just 3 2/3 innings in a loss that sends the Orioles (30-37) to a season-high seven games under .500. They are 2-4 on their 10-game road trip.

This loss was particularly difficult for the Orioles to swallow considering they had tied the game at 3 following Lopez's early struggles, and knocked out Toronto starter Scott Downs, usually a reliever, in the third inning.

But Vinnie Chulk struck out Corey Patterson with the bases loaded to end the third, and the Orioles managed just four hits and no runs the following six innings against five Blue Jays relievers. Former Oriole B.J. Ryan came on in the eighth, needed just three pitches to get out of that inning and then worked a scoreless ninth for his 16th save.

Lopez (4-8) had won his past three decisions after a career- high seven straight losses, a turnaround that occurred with Javy Lopez behind the plate as his personal catcher. Before last night, Lopez had a 3.25 ERA over the past four starts. But he was touched for home runs by Alex Rios, Frank Catalanotto and Vernon Wells in his shortest outing of the season.

"Missed location." said Javy Lopez of Rodrigo's problems. "It was like that pretty much throughout the game. I tried to get low and away and he was throwing middle in."

Manager Sam Perlozzo cited another problem. "[After] a couple home runs, I thought he got in to overthrowing again." Perlozzo said.

Rios, Toronto's leadoff man, slammed Lopez's 3-2 fastball over the wall in left-center field to open the bottom of the first, his second leadoff homer in three nights. The Blue Jays' next batter, Frank Catalanotto, roped Lopez's changeup over the wall in right-center field. It was the first time Toronto led off the game with back-to-back homers since Devon White and Roberto Alomar did it in 1991.

And Toronto wasn't even finished in the first. Lyle Overbay singled in Vernon Wells for a 3-0 lead. John Halama was warming, when Lopez got Aaron Hill to fly out on his 38th and final pitch of the first inning.

Lopez did settle down and retire the Blue Jays in order in the second, before Wells connected for a leadoff homer in the third.

Lopez's final inning - the fourth - started with Luis Matos unable to pick up a fly ball off the bat of Gregg Zaun that the Orioles right fielder wouldn't have caught anyway. Matos stood motionless as the ball bounced off the right-field wall and went for a double. Lopez then got two outs, before walking Rios and allowing a run-scoring single from Catalanotto.

The Orioles pitcher had words with home plate umpire Jerry Layne after the hit, seemingly upset that Catalanotto had not been called out on the pitch before his single. Perlozzo came out to defuse the situation and consult with his pitcher. He allowed Lopez to face Wells with two men on. Wells doubled to left, giving the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead and ending Lopez's night.

"It seemed like I didn't get many calls." said Lopez, "and I was trying to make a perfect pitch. Then I fall behind in the count and have to pitch from behind."

Forced to play from behind, the Orioles started their come back with a run in the second on Jeff Conine's RBI groundout. Toronto manager John Gibbons started Downs in injured Gustavo Chacin's spot in the rotation - and not former Oriole Josh Towers - largely because Downs is left-handed and the Orioles entered last night last in the league with a .215 average against southpaws.

Downs, however, had a short leash and wound up getting removed without getting an out in the third inning. Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora singled and then Miguel Tejada, the last batter Downs would face, dropped in an RBI single. Millar then tied the game at 3 with a single off Chulk. The Orioles had a chance to take the lead, but Corey Patterson struck out looking at a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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