Devil Rays 8, Orioles 7
-- As soon as Baltimore Orioles Manager Mike Hargrove arrived at the mound for the second time with one out in the sixth inning today, starter Rodrigo Lopez flipped him the ball and walked off the field, head bowed.
Lopez had allowed seven runs on eight hits in the Orioles' 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay in front of 33,870, ending Baltimore's winning streak at three games.
The Orioles (7-9) had hoped Lopez would be their ace this season. Instead, the right-hander fell to 0-3 and his ERA jumped to 7.66. He has failed to get out of the seventh inning in all four starts this season after leading American League rookies last year in wins (15), ERA (3.57), strikeouts (136) and innings pitched (1962/3) and finishing second in AL rookie of the year voting.
"It's getting tough, but what happened last year does not count this year," said Lopez, who added that the torn fingernail on his right middle finger that hindered him in his last outing is no longer bothering him. "I just didn't make the quality pitches I needed to make, and I didn't make adjustments, either."
Against one of baseball's worst teams, Lopez allowed a first-inning solo home run to George Lombard -- who had joined the team from Class AAA Durham about three hours earlier -- and a two-run homer to Aubrey Huff in the third to fall behind 3-0.
That was all Tampa Bay right-hander Jorge Sosa (1-1) needed to become the first starter this season to earn a victory for the Devil Rays (6-11). He allowed just three hits, along with three walks, in five innings to deny the Orioles their first four-game winning streak since last August.
Lopez, winless in his past six starts dating from last season, fell apart in Tampa Bay's four-run sixth inning. After he allowed two hits and a walk to load the bases with one out, Tampa Bay's Damion Easley lined a grounder up the middle that deflected off Lopez's hand for a run-scoring infield hit.
"If he gets his hand on that ball, it's a double play and we are out of the inning," Hargrove said. ". . . [Lopez] just missed with a lot of his crucial pitches, but he's still a good pitcher."
After a visit from Hargrove, Lopez induced Marlon Anderson to hit a ground ball to first, but Lopez was late covering the bag, and Anderson beat him by a step as Rocco Baldelli scored to increase Tampa Bays' lead to 5-0.
Lopez was pulled in favor of Willis Roberts, who promptly gave up a two-run single to Javier Valentin before getting Rey Ordonez to ground into an inning-ending double play.
The Orioles rallied briefly in the sixth, when B.J. Surhoff (3 for 4, four RBI, two runs scored) hit a two-run homer to cut the Devil Rays' lead to 7-2. They then put runners on second and third with just one out, but reliever Travis Harper got Tony Batista and Marty Cordova to fly out to end the inning.
After Easley provided what turned out to be the game-winning hit with a solo homer in the eighth off Roberts to give the Devil Rays an 8-3 lead, the Orioles tried to rally in the ninth.
Rookie Jose Morban, pinch-hitting, led off with the first hit of his career -- a home run to center -- and consecutive doubles by Jerry Hairston, Gary Matthews Jr. and Surhoff pulled Baltimore within 8-6.
Jeff Conine's single scored Surhoff to trim the Devil Rays' lead to 8-7, but reliever Lance Carter denied the Orioles their first victory when trailing after eight innings this season by retiring the next three Orioles to end the game.
Orioles Note: No timetable has been set for the return of first baseman David Segui, the team's top hitter who strained his right hamstring as he ran to first base in the eighth inning during Thursday's victory at Cleveland, Hargrove said.
"He's better today than he was on Friday, but I don't think he's ready to come back," Hargrove said. "But he's feeling better, and that's encouraging."
Segui broke his right thumb during spring training and missed the season's first four games, but posted a team-high .441 batting average in 10 games since his return.
"It feels a lot better," said Segui, who played in just 26 games last year after tearing a tendon in his left wrist and has been on the disabled list four times in the past three seasons.
The switch-hitting Segui's absence could mean more playing time for Morban, whose home run today came in just the second plate appearance of his career.
"He's got talent and he can play," Hargrove said. "We just need to find the right times to get him in to play and get his feet wet."