Offensively Struggling O's Lose 6th in Row

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By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

BALTIMORE, July 25 -- On a night when Baltimore welcomed back standout catcher Javy Lopez, the Orioles were still waiting for the return of an offense that had been one of the league's best for most of the season.

The Orioles were confident the return of Lopez, who had been one of the team's top hitters before breaking a bone in his right hand in late May, would help awaken an offense mired in a slump. But Lopez went hitless in four at-bats, one of many Orioles who failed to produce at the plate in a 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers in front of 29,314 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (50-48) managed eight hits after hitting .247 in their past eight games. But one of the biggest reasons the Orioles have lost six in a row and eight of nine has been their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. In their past eight games, the Orioles batted .127 in those situations, and Monday night they went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 base runners, leaving the bases loaded twice.

"It seems like the last week or so that we can't get that one, two-out hit that could change the complexion of the game for us," said Manager Lee Mazzilli, who told his players they will not take batting practice before Tuesday night's game. "For some reason, we're not pulling the trigger right now."

The offensive futility helped make a loser out of Daniel Cabrera (8-8). The right-hander allowed three runs on three hits with seven walks in five innings before being relieved by Todd Williams.

During a time in which much of the gossip surrounding the Orioles concerns their need to trade for a shutdown starting pitcher -- namely the Marlins' A.J. Burnett -- Cabrera's recent performances could be overlooked. He has gone 3-1 in his last five starts, allowing 17 hits and eight earned runs in 30 1/3 innings to rebound from a disastrous June, when he went 1-3 with a 5.67 earned run average.

After the Orioles failed to take control of the game early by stranding five base runners in the first two innings, the Rangers (49-49) capitalized in their first opportunity against Cabrera in the third inning.

Cabrera walked the first four batters he faced, but still had the chance to get out of the jam unscathed because leadoff hitter Gary Matthews Jr. was thrown out trying to steal second base.

Cabrera induced all-star Mark Teixeira, a native of Severna Park, to hit a grounder to first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who tried to start an inning-ending double play and threw to shortstop Miguel Tejada instead of throwing home. When Tejada was in position to throw back to first, Cabrera wasn't there to cover it, allowing Teixeira to reach safely and catcher Rod Barajas to cross home plate, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

"If I go [to first base] I think we could have had a double play," Cabrera said.

Cabrera got Hank Blalock to line out to Tejada to end the inning, but the Rangers extended their lead in each of their next two at-bats. Alfonso Soriano (3 for 4) hit a solo home run to left in the fourth inning and singled with two outs to score Teixeira in the fifth.

That was more than enough for Texas starter Joaquin Benoit (2-1). The right-hander wasn't overpowering, but he allowed four hits and four walks against two strikeouts before being relieved by Ron Mahay. And that's when the Orioles were finally able to get on the scoreboard.

Jay Gibbons led off the sixth inning with a home run to center field, and after Luis Matos (2 for 4) reached second base on a throwing error by Barajas, he moved to third on a wild pitch. Matos cut the lead to 3-2 when he scored on a groundout by Larry Bigbie, but that's as close as the Orioles would get.

"It's been pretty tough to score runs lately and you can't win like that," said third baseman Melvin Mora (3 for 5). "I think right now everyone is trying to do too much and we need to slow down. It's frustrating."


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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