Orioles 3, Rangers 1
Rodrigo Lopez led the Baltimore Orioles to their fifth straight victory with an understated domination of the Texas Rangers in a 3-1 win at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Saturday.
Lopez never seemed to overpower the Rangers, but didn't allow them many solidly hit balls over the first 62/3 innings of a tidy 2-hour 21-minute game. He fooled the Texas hitters with a change-up that hovered in the low-eighties, complemented by a low-nineties fastball.
"What a great game he pitched, just mixed it up," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "That's what you want out of him."
Last Sunday against the New York Yankees, Lopez (9-7) allowed eight runs -- a season high. This time, he got off to a strong start, striking out six of the first 10 batters, including the side in the third inning. He retired the first 10 Texas batters, giving up his initial hit to Gary Matthews with one out in the fourth.
For the second straight game, an Orioles starter shut down one of the best-hitting lineups in baseball. Friday night, it was Erik Bedard, who yielded one run in 61/3 innings.
Saturday, Mazzilli made his move with two outs in the seventh inning, after Lopez had thrown 94 pitches. He had allowed two hits and no walks, striking out seven.
"I like to go on in every game," Lopez said. "I don't want to go out. If it was my decision, I would stay in every game. . . . When you're in this kind of game, your stuff's working pretty good, you don't feel like you're tired. Maybe I get tired, but I don't notice. [The coaches are] watching me from out there, so they know better than I do. I just feel good on every pitch."
After letting Bedard throw 125 pitches Friday night, Mazzilli played it conservatively with Lopez, removing him even though he had set down the last eight straight batters on a relatively cool afternoon. Mazzilli said Lopez had left a few of his pitches up in the strike zone before he was removed.
"That's his spot," Mazzilli said of reliever B.J. Ryan, who replaced Lopez. "You've got to go to your best. What Rodrigo did was fantastic, he did a great job and you want him to go out on a good note. That's B.J.'s job."
Ryan came in to pitch 11/3 innings, giving up a hit and no runs.
Baltimore made its only major dent against Rangers starter and former Oriole Scott Erickson in the third inning. Melvin Mora, who had singled, was erased on a near double-play ball off the bat of Miguel Tejada, who beat the throw to first. Rafael Palmeiro lined a double into right field. Javy Lopez brought in Tejada with a sacrifice fly, then B.J. Surhoff singled to score Palmeiro with the Orioles' third run of the game.
The Orioles got their first run in the first inning, when Tejada smoked a double that landed just fair down the right field line, scoring David Newhan. Newhan had walked and stolen second to get into position for Tejada to add his 100th RBI of the season in the Orioles' 108th game.
Texas narrowly avoided another Orioles scoring chance in the second, as Surhoff singled to shallow left-center field with one out and Jerry Hairston followed by slamming a single to left. Brian Roberts walked to load the bases, but second baseman Alfonso Soriano ended the threat when he backpedaled to catch a line drive off the bat of Newhan.
Newhan was robbed of another hit by center fielder Laynce Nix, who crashed into the wall in the sixth to take a hit away from the Orioles' designated hitter. That smash chased Erickson in favor of reliever Frank Francisco.
Erickson, the 36-year-old former Orioles starter, didn't fare too badly in his Rangers debut, allowing three runs in 52/3 innings in his old home park. However, the Orioles could have done more damage, leaving nine runners on in the first six innings.
"I feel bad for Scott," Rangers Manager Buck Showalter said. "I think he broke like five bats today on hits. . . . He pitched well enough to win a baseball game."
Erickson has spent much of his career sidelined with injuries, missing the 2003 season after shoulder surgery. He pitched for the Orioles from 1995 to 2002, going 16-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 1997.
Soriano broke up the shutout when he took Orioles reliever Jorge Julio deep on a solo shot that bounced off the foul pole in left field with one out in the ninth inning. Julio came back to strike out Matthews and get Hank Blalock on a slow ball to shortstop Tejada, with an error by Melvin Mora mixed in, to save the game for Rodrigo Lopez.
Palmeiro, who got two hits in the game, said he has liked what he's seen from the Orioles' pitching staff the past two days, performances that bode well for the rest of the season.
"The last two games, if we can pitch like that, we wouldn't lose," he said.