- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adrian Beltre’s productive bat has been tempered in recent weeks because of an ankle problem that probably will bother him the rest of the season.

But little can stop the Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman from getting the most out of a good pitch in his zone. Beltre snapped a tie with a leadoff homer in the eighth inning, lifting the Dodgers to a 4-3 victory over the skidding Baltimore Orioles.

“He’s been swinging the bat well the last couple of nights, and he’s gotten some big hits,” teammate Paul Lo Duca said. “He’s got bone chips in his ankle, and he’s been playing with it the whole year. I don’t know if it’s going to get any better or any worse. I don’t know if that’s an excuse for when he was going bad, because his ankle’s the same as it was two weeks ago.”

Beltre drove a 3-2 slider into the left-field bullpen for his 16th homer two innings after pinch-hitter Jason Grabowski hit a tying two-run shot and helped the National League West-leading Dodgers complete a three-game sweep.

Both homers came against Rodrigo Lopez (5-3), who was scheduled to start the game before Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli sent him to the bullpen Tuesday.

Guillermo Mota (3-1) got the win with a scoreless eighth. Eric Gagne got three outs in the ninth for his 16th save, extending his major league record saves streak to 79.

Miguel Tejada had three hits for the Orioles, who have lost five straight and 12 of 15 — a free fall that has put them a season-worst eight games under .500.

Baltimore rookie Erik Bedard allowed a run and five hits in five innings and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Lopez, who was upset about being taken out of the rotation and met privately with Mazzilli before the game, inherited a 3-1 lead from Bedard and promptly gave up a double by Beltre on his first pitch.

Two outs later, Grabowski batted for starting pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii and drove a 2-1 delivery into the right-field pavilion for his fifth homer and third by a Dodgers pinch-hitter this season.

“You have to be a little more aggressive as a pinch-hitter,” Grabowski said. “It’s my only at-bat, so I’ve got to try to get a good pitch and hit it hard. It’s not the easiest job in the world, but that’s what I’m here for. Any time a home run ties a game or puts you ahead, it’s a big one.”

Lopez, a 28-year-old right-hander, complained publicly Wednesday about the way he felt the Orioles were treating him. He said the pregame chat with Mazzilli was unproductive but insisted that he wasn’t preoccupied by this week’s events once he took the mound.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything else except pitching and get the batters out. I kept my focus, but things happened,” said Lopez, who wasn’t completely warmed up before he entered the game.

“One of the hardest things about going from starter to reliever for me is the warming up part, so it’s going to take me a little bit longer to get myself loose,” Lopez said.

Ishii allowed three runs and nine hits over six innings. The left-hander, who entered with an NL-leading 49 walks, surrendered his only one to Tejada leading off the sixth. It proved costly when Javy Lopez doubled and B.J. Surhoff followed with a two-run single to snap a 1-1 tie.

Ishii gave up singles to four of his first five batters but got out of the first inning with only one run scoring — thanks in part to a double-play grounder by No.2 hitter Luis Matos, whose hitless drought reached 19 at-bats after he went 0-for-4.

Baltimore third baseman Melvin Mora, who entered third in the AL with a .351 average, was removed for a pinch-runner during the inning. He bunted his way on after the double play but sprained a ligament in his left foot getting back to first on Ishii’s pickoff attempt. X-rays were negative.

Jose Leon, who replaced Mora on the bases after a single by Tejada, scored from second on Rafael Palmeiro’s single. It was the Orioles’ first lead in 35 innings, dating to the second inning of Sunday’s 7-3 loss to San Francisco.

It didn’t last long. The Dodgers tied it in the bottom of the first when Jayson Werth walked and scored on Milton Bradley’s double.

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