Lopez, Roberts Rescue Orioles
Three-Game Skid Ends With Rout: Orioles 10, White Sox 3
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2004; Page D01
BALTIMORE, May 4 -- As to the question of why the Baltimore Orioles' best starting pitcher is still toiling in their bullpen more than four weeks into the season, we hold up Tuesday night's 10-3 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Where would the Orioles have been without Rodrigo Lopez on this night? And for that matter, where would they be this season? The Orioles would rather not consider the answers.
All the Orioles (13-11) know for sure is that they are thankful there is a Lopez in their midst on nights like this one, when yet another young starter -- this time left-hander Eric DuBose -- unraveled on the mound amid too many walks, too few strikes, too little mettle.
"I can't put a value on what he's doing," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He basically won the game by keeping us in there like that."
The Orioles were able to overcome DuBose's four-inning horror show -- which included seven walks, two wild pitches and two home runs -- because of Lopez's four scoreless innings of relief (lowering his ERA to a microscopic 0.38), and because of an offense, led by second baseman Brian Roberts, that pounded last year's Cy Young award runner-up, Esteban Loaiza.
Continuing to state his case as the team's top leadoff man in the face of an oncoming challenge -- with Jerry Hairston preparing to come off the disabled list in about another week -- Roberts reached base five times, collected three hits, scored four runs and tied a franchise record with four stolen bases.
As he has done all season, Lopez entered a game that was threatening to get out of hand -- though the Orioles were leading 7-3 at the time -- and restored order immediately. For his efforts, Lopez (2-1) earned the win, not to mention the continued gratitude of his teammates and 21,488 fans on hand at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"He's been awesome," Roberts said. "He's throwing strikes. It brings [the defense] mentally into the game, more than anything."
Aced out of a rotation spot this spring, Lopez may have made himself too valuable to move -- at least not now, as the Orioles' young rotation continues to prove incapable of getting deep into games. Although things could change soon, for now the Orioles seem content to let Lopez salvage two games every five days -- three or four innings at a time -- as opposed to starting only once in the same span.
"I'm trying to get comfortable in the situation I'm in now," Lopez said. "But my hope is to come back in the rotation. . . . I can't feel sorry for myself."
As poor as DuBose's command was Tuesday night, it's a wonder he lasted as long as he did. He managed to keep the White Sox off the scoreboard in the second inning, for instance, despite issuing four walks, thanks to a double-play grounder.
The Orioles did everything they could to straighten DuBose out. Pitching coach Mark Wiley spent most of bottom of the third inning talking to him at the end of the dugout. Mazzilli would have loved to have coaxed DuBose through the fifth, putting the lefty in line for a win, but there's only so much a manager can take.
No sooner had DuBose walked the leadoff man in the fifth, than Mazzilli was bounding out of the dugout to yank him.
It was the seventh time in the Orioles' last nine games that their starter has failed to complete the sixth inning.
"With the walks, you're killing yourself," DuBose said. "It just kept snowballing. I have to cut down on the walks."
Loaiza (4-1), who faced the Orioles twice last season and dominated them both times, found their lineup slightly more difficult to navigate Tuesday night. The Orioles rapped out 10 hits against him in 52/3 innings, although the critical sequence of the game, when the Orioles seized the lead, was not his fault.
After blowing a game with defense Monday night -- when errors on shortstop Miguel Tejada and third baseman Melvin Mora led to the decisive runs -- the Orioles won on Tuesday in much the same way.
The pivotal fourth inning, when the Orioles scored four unearned runs, was built upon Jay Gibbons's leadoff infield single -- which third baseman Joe Crede had trouble getting out of his glove -- and an error on shortstop Kelly Dransfeldt, who let Roberts's routine two-out grounder go between his legs, scoring the go-ahead runs. Two batters later, Tejada singled sharply to right to drive in two more runs -- the 1,000th hit of Tejada's career, but only his eighth in 37 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Orioles Notes: Hairston (broken and dislocated finger) will begin a rehabilitation assignment for Class AA Bowie on Wednesday. Though he was the regular second baseman from 2001 through last May, he will have a hard time dislodging Roberts when he returns. Roberts has 13 stolen bases and a .327 batting average. . . .
Roberts's four stolen bases tied the club record set by Brady Anderson in 1998 and matched by Luis Matos in 2000.
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