A Sept. 5 Sports article incorrectly said that Baltimore Orioles pitcher Rodrigo Lopez pitched a perfect game through 42/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox the day before. Lopez was perfect through 32/3 innings, and the first hit he allowed was to David Ortiz, not Trot Nixon. (Published 9/15/2005)
Red Sox 5, Orioles 1
With 42/3 innings of perfectly pitched baseball, Rodrigo Lopez was working on a masterpiece. The Red Sox had hardly tested him and with his previous success against Boston, it appeared the Mexican right-hander would test history, or at least get another win at Fenway Park -- where he has thrived. This old stadium might also have helped Lopez if he had gotten through another inning, because once the shadows crept onto the field as daylight faded, the offenses disappeared.
He finished the fourth with no problem, though his perfect game was ended by Trot Nixon's single. But in the next inning, the crucial fifth inning, Lopez's masterpiece unraveled and the Baltimore Orioles left Boston with a 5-1 loss.
In the fifth inning, Lopez allowed six hits and all five runs. The entire inning changed when, with a man on first base, first baseman B.J. Surhoff could not snag Bill Mueller's sharp ground ball. Instead of a double play, Boston had men on first and third.
"It was right on my backhand," Surhoff said. "I should have had it. It's a play I should have turned the double play on. The ball stayed down and I obviously stayed up. I misjudged the ball."
John Olerud followed with a three-run home run over the right field fence, near the Orioles' bullpen. Jay Gibbons reached over the fence and made a desperate attempt to catch the ball, which escaped him by less than a foot, the right fielder calculated.
"I came really close," Gibbons said. "I just ran out of arm."
Lopez said Surhoff's missed play caused him to change his approach with Olerud. Instead of throwing an offspeed pitch, Lopez elected to throw a fastball. It was not location that had betrayed him, Lopez said, but pitch selection.
"It changed it a little bit," Lopez said. "I was trying to get Olerud to ground into a double play. I just think he was prepared for a fastball the whole time."
The relentless Boston offense, which has batted around the order 36 times this season and has scored five runs in an inning 26 times, scored twice more in the fifth to give starter David Wells a comfortable lead. Lopez, who appeared so dominant early, did not come out for the sixth inning.
Wells, in his first start since a six-game suspension for arguing with an umpire, allowed five hits through the first four innings. Baltimore had rallies in the first and fourth innings, but could not get a run across. In the fourth, Baltimore put men on first and second with no outs, but neither runner advanced.
Once the shadows came, the Orioles had little success, though they scored their run in the sixth on a double by Tejada. Gibbons said the shadows made it difficult to pick up the spin on the ball, which indicates movement. For some reason, Gibbons said, afternoon games at Fenway are often unbearable for hitters, more so than in any other stadium.
"You have five innings, that's all you get here," Gibbons said. "After that it's a guessing game. The shadows are not easy to hit. You can't see the spin well, then halfway through it, you lose all of the spin and then even the ball."
Wells allowed just two hits in the final five innings and earned a complete game win.
"The shadows helped a lot," Wells said. "You take advantage of that and go out and try to have some fun."
It turned into a wretched afternoon for hitters after the fifth inning. Boston was hitless in the final three innings.
"They didn't do a whole lot else after that either," Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts said. "That's why as hitters, we're not fans of 2 or 3 p.m. starts."