- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 28, 2002

ARLINGTON, Texas [-] If this was Rodrigo Lopez's final appearance in 2002, it certainly wasn't indicative of his rookie season as a whole.
Lopez, the Orioles' young ace and AL Rookie of the Year candidate, was tagged for five runs and a season-high 10 hits in Baltimore's 9-4 loss to the Texas Rangers last night.
The Orioles, losers of four straight after reaching the .500 mark last week, aren't playing their best baseball as the season approaches Friday's strike date. Should the players walk and the resulting strike cancels the season, Baltimore would finish with a sub-.500 record for the fifth straight year.
Making what would be his last start if a strike wipes out the rest of the season, Lopez hardly offered the type of performance the Orioles have become accustomed to over the last five months.
Normally a quick worker who keeps his pitch counts down, Lopez struggled to find his rhythm last night. By the time he departed after five innings, the rookie right-hander had accumulated 97 pitches (he threw just 91 over eight innings in his last start).
"Tonight, for whatever reason, I don't think he was as aggressive as he has been before," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I think he threw too many pitches to each hitter instead of attacking them like he usually does."
Staked to an early 3-0 lead, Lopez (14-6) ran into trouble in the fourth when he left a 3-2 slider down and over the plate to Herbert Perry. The Texas third baseman went with the pitch and crushed it 412 feet to right-center field for a game-tying, three-run homer. Things went progressively downhill from there. Four extra-base hits over the next two innings made it 5-3 and ultimately led to Lopez's early departure.
The 26-year-old was pulled in favor of Sean Douglass before the start of the sixth, equaling his shortest start of the season. The five runs allowed fell one shy of Lopez's season high.
"It wasn't a good start for me, probably one of my worst starts," Lopez said. "The guys gave me good support. I just couldn't help them."
Texas starter Dennys Reyes wasn't all that impressive, either, but the left-hander managed to muddle his way through five innings to earn the win.
Reyes (2-2) was done in early by shoddy defense behind him. After Melvin Mora walked to open the game, left fielder Kevin Mench bobbled Jerry Hairston's base hit. When Hairston took off for second, Alex Rodriguez threw wildly into shallow right field [-] the All-Star shortstop was originally charged with his first error in 51 games, but after the game it was changed to second baseman Michael Young [-] and Mora raced home with Baltimore's first run.
Tony Batista's RBI single made it 2-0, and Mike Bordick gave the Orioles a three-run lead in the second when he hit his fifth homer of the season. But several subsequent squandered opportunities [-] they stranded 12 runners in the game [-] did in the Orioles. "We certainly had our chances," Hargrove said. "We just couldn't make it happen." The Rangers padded their cushion with four late runs off Douglass, including Rodriguez's major-league-leading 47th homer.
Notes [-] Pat Hentgen allowed two runs (one earned) and five hits in a six-inning rehab start last night at Class AA Bowie. Hentgen, in his fifth minor-league appearance in his return from Tommy John surgery, walked two and struck out three. The veteran right-hander likely will make one more start Sunday or Monday before the Orioles activate him. [EnLeader]
An MRI taken Monday on outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.'s injured right wrist revealed no damage. Matthews was placed on the DL on Sunday with a wrist strain.

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