Lopez's Homer in Eighth Halts O's Six-Game Slide

Sammy Sosa
Sammy Sosa blasts the 586th homer of his career off Rangers starter Kenny Rogers on Tuesday and moves into fifth place on the career list. (Jamie Squire - Getty Images)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 27, 2005

BALTIMORE, July 26 -- This sweltering and suffocating heat is the type of weather that melts ice cream, causes cups of ice to drip with condensation and makes managers of teams with six-game losing streaks wilt. It was his slumping team and not the weather, though, that made Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli cancel batting practice prior to a night game for the first time this season.

Mazzilli had promised all along that his powerful lineup would be complete when catcher Javy Lopez returned. But while Mazzilli waited for Lopez, who had broken a bone in his right hand, for almost two months, the Orioles fell farther and farther behind in the standings.

Lopez was hitless in his first game back from the disabled list, but had three hits, including the game-winning home run, a drive over the center field wall in the eighth inning against James Baldwin in Tuesday's 5-4 win over the Texas Rangers that ended Baltimore's six-game losing streak.

"I didn't do it yesterday, but thank God something happened today," Lopez said. "Hopefully from now I can just put something together for a few games. It's pretty frustrating to not be able to play and not help the team win or help the team some way or somehow. The fact I'm back right now I'm pretty happy."

Lopez is such a natural hitter, he often does not know what pitches he hits. When asked what pitch the home run was, Lopez responded with a shrug of his shoulders, "Slider?"

Baldwin told reporters the pitch was a fastball.

The Orioles were sweating heading into Tuesday's game and it had nothing to do with the 98-degree heat at game time. The pressure had gotten to them. Baltimore had lost six in a row and showed signs of become nothing more than also-rans in the American League East.

But it is in these conditions that Sammy Sosa thrives. And with Lopez back in the lineup and Sosa streaking, perhaps the Orioles have already made their midseason improvements without giving up a player.

"If they want to add another bat, that's always welcome," Lopez said. "The more the better."

It's been said that Sosa heats up in conjunction with the weather, and as the temperature has risen, so has the designated hitter's batting average.

Prior to a game last week, Sosa smiled at a reporter and said, "It's coming."

It has. Sosa is hitting .316 (12 for 38) with three home runs in the past 10 games.

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