- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

SEATTLE As good as Rodrigo Lopez has been for the Baltimore Orioles, the rookie right-hander was certainly allowed to have an off day. And as well as the Orioles have played on their first West Coast trip of the year, it was certainly justifiable if they had one poor showing.
Thankfully they came on the same day, yesterday in Seattle, and cost the Orioles only one game.
But even with an 8-1 loss to the Mariners, Baltimore headed home last night with a respectable 3-3 record against Seattle and Oakland, a mild success given the disoriented state the team was in when it came west one week ago.
"Any time you have a chance to turn a road trip into a winning proposition, it's disappointing when you don't get a little more," said manager Mike Hargrove, who saw his team follow up Saturday night's rousing 3-2 win with a lackluster performance yesterday. "But I think before we left on this road trip, if someone said, 'You'll go 3-3; would you take that?' I think all of us would say yes.
"I think there's a lot of people around the country who wouldn't believe we could have gone 3-3 on this road trip. A lot more good things than bad things happened to us on this road trip."
Good things like center fielder Chris Singleton's resurgent bat, which produced a pair of singles yesterday to extend his career-best hitting streak to 15 games.
Good things like 30-year-old rookie Travis Driskill's dominating six-inning performance Saturday night in his first career start.
And good things like the standout bullpen work the Orioles received from left-handers B.J. Ryan (1⅓ scoreless innings on Saturday), Buddy Groom (1⅔ scoreless innings to earn a save on Saturday) and right-hander Willis Roberts (four scoreless innings on Friday).
The bad outweighed the good in yesterday's loss, from an uncharacteristically poor start by Lopez to a third-straight 0-for-4 game by previously hot-hitting DH Marty Cordova.
For the third straight start, the 26-year-old Lopez hoped to become the first Orioles rookie to go 6-0. He received no-decisions in his previous two outings; this time he put his teammates in a hole that was too deep to overcome.
Lopez's troubles started in the second inning, when John Olerud drilled a 1-1 change-up over the center-field fence for his eighth homer of the season. Following a strikeout, Lopez (5-1) allowed the next five Mariners to reach base and, by the time the dust settled, Seattle had a 4-0 lead.
"I felt it was just one bad inning. It's kind of frustrating, but that's part of baseball," said Lopez, who was also the victim of poor defense Singleton was slow to get the ball back in on Ben Davis' single up the middle, and Jeff Conine's relay throw to the plate was way off line, nearly striking umpire Bill Hohn.
The lackadaisical play was particularly bothersome to Hargrove, who also saw Mike Cameron score from first on Carlos Guillen's sixth-inning single (Cameron was running on the pitch).
Lopez pitched better after the second, but he still left a 2-2 change-up over the plate to Guillen in the fourth, and the Seattle shortstop deposited it over the center-field fence for a solo homer.
Having departed after the fifth (his shortest outing in seven starts), Lopez saw his AL-best 1.94 ERA jump to 2.57. However, the former star of the Mexican League's Culiacan Tomato Growers hasn't lost perspective on his first extended stint in the majors.
"I'm still having fun. I'm still proud of myself and happy with how I'm doing," he said. "I've been in baseball for a while, and I know that's going to happen. I don't think it was a bad start, it was just one of those days where you don't have your pitches."
The Orioles didn't exactly provide Lopez with much offensive support. Aside from Singleton's two hits, two stolen bases and run scored on Conine's fourth-inning sacrifice fly, Baltimore managed all of three more hits against crafty veteran Jamie Moyer (4-2).
The 39-year-old left-hander improved to 13-1 against his former team 13 consecutive wins with eight brilliant innings that left the Orioles baffled, none more so than Cordova.
The Baltimore DH came into the weekend with a team-best .315 batting average, but concluded an abysmal 0-for-12 series against Seattle that included six strikeouts, two double plays and no balls hit out of the infield.
Hargrove said Driskill, who allowed one run in six innings in what was supposed to be a spot-start on Saturday, could very well be given another chance to pitch this Saturday when the No.5 spot in the rotation comes up again. Either Driskill or rookie right-hander Sean Douglass will get the call against the Mariners at Camden Yards.
Lopez will wind up in the Orioles' record book as the third rookie pitcher to go 5-0, joining Ben McDonald (1990) and Rocky Coppinger (1996).

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