- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2002

BOSTON Mike Hargrove says comparing the Baltimore Orioles' success against losing opponents with their lack of success against winning opponents is like "comparing apples and oranges."
Well, with a 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox last night, the Orioles have now beaten the AL East leaders three times in four games.
As noted Bostonian Matt Damon might say: "How do you like them apples?"
It was one thing for the Orioles to take five of six from cellar dwellers Tampa Bay and Kansas City. It's quite another to beat the Red Sox on a consistent basis.
"The Red Sox have an awfully good ballclub," Hargrove said. "To be competitive with them says something about our ballclub."
The Orioles haven't just played competitive baseball over the last 10 days. They've played winning baseball on all fronts, getting quality starting pitching, opportunistic hitting and lights-out performances from their suddenly dominating bullpen.
Put it all together and Baltimore's players find themselves winners in eight of their last 10 games, one game under .500 for the season and 4 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
"We're family," said left fielder Melvin Mora, who launched his third homer of the season in the seventh inning last night. "We're playing well, and I know we can play even better than this."
The cast of characters who led the Orioles to the verge of the .500-mark last night Rodrigo Lopez, Geronimo Gil, Jorge Julio are hardly household names. But each contributed significantly to the victory in front of 31,177 chilly and wet fans at Fenway, building off of what they had already accomplished.
Hargrove still hasn't officially named Julio his closer, but when the manager summoned the 23-year-old right-hander in the bottom of the ninth last night to face four straight left-handed hitters, there was little doubt that Julio is Hargrove's guy.
He got into trouble, surrendering back-to-back singles to start the ninth, but rebounded to get Trot Nixon to pop out and Jose Offerman to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play on the first pitch of the at-bat.
"I was ready to go," said Julio, who notched his fourth save. "The weather's cold, so I threw my first pitch fastball over the middle of the plate and see whatever happens."
Julio's scoreless ninth finished off another strong night from Baltimore's bullpen. B.J. Ryan, Rick Bauer, Buddy Groom and Julio combined to hold the Red Sox to one run over the final 3⅓ innings.
"Julio has really kind of been our closer without being named closer," Hargrove admitted. "And he really hasn't done anything to make us think that he can't do it."
Like his fellow rookie batterymate, catcher Gil continues to succeed in his first full season in the majors. With his fifth home run of the season a solo shot over the Green Monster in the fifth Gil tied Mets All-Star Mike Piazza for the major-league lead among catchers.
His night came to an early end when he strained both his right hamstring and left groin trying to make a circus tag on Tony Clark at the plate in the seventh. Gil's status is day-to-day.
Lopez continued his surprising dominance of the Red Sox, holding the majors' best hitting team to two runs on four hits in 5⅔ innings, improving his record to 3-0 with a sparkling 2.42 ERA.
Familiarity with Lopez wasn't a problem for the Red Sox, who have now seen the rookie right-hander three times in a month but have yet to figure him out. Lopez's 5-3 victory over Boston at Camden Yards last Wednesday his first as a member of the starting rotation was still fresh in everyone's minds, but his performance out of the bullpen April 7 might have been more significant in the grand scheme of things.
That appearance four shutout innings in relief of Calvin Maduro constituted Lopez's first taste of success in the big leagues and put him on the fast track for the Orioles' rotation. He was just as good last night.

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