- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2000

BALTIMORE The Baltimore Orioles ended the month of April with a loss yesterday an 8-4 defeat at the hands of the Texas Rangers but the outlook for the rest of the season is a lot brighter than it was on May 1, 1999.

A month has passed and the Orioles aren't out of the American League East race, in fact they are contenders. A 14-10 record has the Orioles a game and a half behind the East-leading New York Yankees. Baltimore is seven games ahead of last April's 6-16 mark.

Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez belted two home runs and was too much for the Orioles yesterday as he led the Rangers to a come-from-behind victory before a regular-season record crowd of 48,563 at Camden Yards.

All nine Rangers in the batting order had at least one hit as Texas rallied from a 3-0 second-inning deficit. It was the first loss for Oriole starter Pat Rapp (3-1). He didn't walk a batter, but allowed five runs on nine hits.

"I threw a lot of pitches off the plate today and low in the zone," Rapp said. "I wouldn't say they [Rangers] were right on them but they were on them enough to get base hits where nobody was playing, or down the line. They've got a lot of younger players and I thought I would have a better chance against these guys with offspeed pitches. A lot of them just dragged their bats through the strike zone and got hits down the line. The doubles were killing me."

The Rangers (9-15) belted six doubles. Rapp lasted 5 and 2/3 innings and struck out three. The 32-year-old threw 95 pitches and 60 went for strikes. Rapp served up five of the Rangers' doubles.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove felt Rapp pitched good enough to win. However, the Rangers swung their bats with conviction to salvage the final game of the three-game series.

By taking two of three from the Rangers, the Orioles have won six of eight series this season. Last season, the Orioles did not win their first series until the first week of May.

"Pat's history is that he is kind of in and out inconsistent with his mechanics and delivery," Hargrove said. "When he's together and mechanically sound, he has great stuff. To Pat's credit, he's been a lot better than bad this season. Give him his due."

The Rangers nicked Rapp for one run in the third inning, two in the fourth and two in the sixth. With the Orioles leading 3-0, Mike Lamb led off the third inning with a doubled and later scored on Jason McDonald's single.

The Rangers got to Rapp in the fourth inning. Rangers second baseman Luis Alicea led off with a single and after an out, moved to third on two wild pitches by Rapp. Former Oriole David Segui, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI, smashed a double into the right-center field gap to score Alicea. Center fielder Ruben Mateo, lashed a single and drove in Segui to tie the game at 3-3.

Segui broke the 3-3 tie in the sixth inning when he doubled in Rodriguez to give his team a 4-3 lead. Segui later scored on Gabe Kapler's double.

Rodriguez belted a 426-foot solo homer off reliever Calvin Maduro in the seventh inning and a two-run homer his ninth of the season off Mike Timlin in the ninth to give the Rangers an 8-4 lead. Rodriguez was 3-for-5 with three RBI and three runs scored.

"There's not enough good things you can say about him," said Rangers manager Johnny Oates of his catcher, an 8-time All-Star. "He's an unbelievable player. He's not even close to 30 yet. There's no telling what this guy could do."

The Orioles scored three runs in the second. Catcher Charles Johnson singled in Jeff Conine before second baseman Mark Lewis, who made his first Orioles start of the season after being claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds last Wednesday, doubled to the gap in left center field to drive in Will Clark and Johnson.

The Orioles added a run in the eighth inning when B.J. Surhoff scored on a double to right by Conine that cut the Rangers lead to 6-4.

Despite the loss, the Orioles, and their fans, remain positive at the start of the season's second month.

"I think we're playing good baseball right now," Johnson said. "Things are much better now than they were at this time last year. Last year, it seemed like we didn't have any idea of how the season was going to go for us. There was a lot of things going on. The clubhouse is settled this year and it's giving us a chance to go out there and just play."

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