- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

PHOENIX The Baltimore Orioles got to Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Randy Johnson yesterday. Unfortunately, they got to him too early for it to mean anything.

Johnson served up a leadoff homer to Melvin Mora on the game's third pitch, but the Orioles couldn't do anything else in seven innings against the tall lefty. Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez held Arizona in check until the Diamondbacks scored five times in the seventh for a 5-1 victory before 35,215 at Bank One Ballpark.

The Orioles paid dearly for wasting an opportunity when they had Johnson on the ropes in the top of the seventh. Johnson wiggled out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by getting Brook Fordyce to bounce into a force play at home and inducing a double-play grounder off the bat of Lopez.

"We had the bases loaded and didn't get any runs in," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "They had the bases loaded and got five runs in."

Lopez (6-3) matched Johnson (11-2) for six innings, but fell apart in the seventh. Baltimore, which beat Curt Schilling on Wednesday night, failed to become the first club this season to defeat the Diamondbacks' co-aces (and last year's World Series co-MVPs) in successive games.

The Orioles, who fell to 6-6 in interleague play this season and had won three of five games, didn't buckle against two of the National League's top pitchers. Still, they lost two of three games in the series.

"I've yet to see this team intimidated," Hargrove said. "We don't always beat them, but we're not intimidated. We can play with people. I've said it before we're not a contender, but we can compete. People have to show up to beat us."

While Johnson could be on target for his fifth career All-Star Game start in Milwaukee next month, Lopez's seventh-inning meltdown likely will cost the rookie any outside shot he had to be selected to the American League staff.

"I just made a couple of mistakes with the ball in the bottom of the seventh," Lopez said. "I left the ball up a little bit."

Lopez was also squeezed by home plate umpire Paul Emmel, who ruled Alex Cintron held up on a checked swing on a 3-2 pitch. The bases-loaded walk forced home the Diamondbacks' first run.

"In baseball, there's no almost," lamented Lopez.

Lopez retired the first 10 Arizona batters he faced before Quinton McCracken singled to right with one out in the fourth. Despite needing only 78 pitches, Lopez struggled in the seventh, when the Diamondbacks sent nine men to the plate and scored five times. Arizona loaded the bases on singles by Damian Miller, Mark Grace (his grounder up the middle struck second base umpire Rob Drake for a rare interference call) and Tony Womack. Cintron then drew the walk that forced in the run that erased the Orioles' 1-0 lead.

Roberts relieved Lopez and walked pinch-hitter Erubiel Durazo on another 3-2 pitch, forcing in another run. The Diamondbacks then bookended sacrifice flies by Craig Counsell and Luis Gonzalez around an RBI single by McCracken for a 5-1 lead.

Johnson allowed five hits and a run over seven innings, walked two and struck out 11 the seventh time this season and 178th in his career that he's reached double-digit strikeouts. That's second only to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan's 215 games with 10 or more strikeouts. Johnson is 15 whiffs shy of tying Don Sutton for sixth on the all-time list.

In eight starts following an Arizona loss this year, Johnson is 5-0 with three no-decisions. He came into the game 3-7 lifetime against Baltimore with a 4.74 earned-run average.

Hargrove followed the accepted strategy of packing his lineup against Johnson with right-handed hitters and the move paid immediate dividends. Mora extended his hitting streak to seven games with his first-inning homer, taking advantage when Johnson left a fastball over the outer half of the plate.

"After the home run, we thought we could keep it going, but we didn't," said Mora, who had faced Johnson only once before in his major-league debut with the New York Mets in 1999, Johnson's first year in Arizona.


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