ATLANTA (AP) -- Javy Lopez had gone 10 whole days without a homer, which qualified as a slump in his amazing season.
Well, the slump's over.
"Javy took a few games off,'' teammate Robert Fick quipped. "I
was wondering when he was going to start hitting two homers a game
Lopez had his fifth two-homer game of the season and matched his
career high with six RBI, set April 17 against the Montreal Expos.
He has 21 homers this season, after hitting only 11 last year.
"For some reason, I just kind of felt different at the plate
today,'' said Lopez, who homered for the first time since a romp of
six in five games from June 5-11. "It's not as easy as it looks,
but I'm happy where I'm at right now. I've got to continue it as
long as I can.''
Lopez's first homer capped a five-run sixth inning, which wiped
out Baltimore's 1-0 lead. The Atlanta catcher hit another in the
eighth to put the game out of reach.
Ramirez (6-2) pitched six-hit ball for seven innings, allowing
just one run. The rookie left-hander hasn't lost since April 11,
going 5-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his last nine starts.
That streak is particularly impressive since, as Atlanta's fifth
starter, he doesn't take a regular turn in the rotation. For the
third time this year, he went 10 days between starts.
"Hey, there's no crying in baseball,'' Ramirez said. "When
they give me the ball, I do the best I can. I'm not getting
accustomed to it, but I'm making adjustments.''
Baltimore starter Rodrigo Lopez (1-4) cruised through the first
five innings, allowing just three hits. It all fell apart in the
Gary Sheffield started the outburst with a broken-bat single,
followed by a walk to Chipper Jones. Andruw Jones tied it up with a
single to center, as Sheffield leaped high to avoid being struck by
the liner before sprinting around to score.
Fick, who tied a career high with five RBIs on Friday, doubled
into the right-field corner to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
That brought up Javy Lopez with first base open.
"I didn't think it was a good idea to put somebody else on
base,'' Rodrigo Lopez said. "But it crossed my mind.''
Javy Lopez worked the count full before connecting with a
hanging slider, sending a 398-foot drive into the left-field seats.
"To hit number 20 was a big relief,'' he said. "When you get
to 19, you want to hit one more so you can be more relaxed.''
He didn't stay at 20 for long. In the eighth, Lopez almost
matched the first homer with a 393-foot shot off Willis Roberts,
making Atlanta the first team in the majors to have two players
with 20 homers. Sheffield also has 21.
Before the eighth was done, Matt Franco added a pinch-hit,
"We pitched bad in two innings,'' Orioles manager Mike Hargrove
said, "and it cost us 10 runs.''
The Braves got another scare in the eighth.
Sheffield and second baseman Marcus Giles converged on a pop
down the right-field line. Giles dove and Sheffield slid to avoid a
collision, only to get struck in the face by Giles' left foot.
Sheffield rolled on the ground in pain while the fans gasped.
But after being checked out by the trainer, he stayed in the game.
"It gave me a headache,'' said Sheffield, who heard chants of
"MVP! MVP!'' after he got up. "We're playing baseball, not
football. I haven't been hit like that since high school.''
Conine homered off Darren Holmes in the eighth.
The crowd of 46,860 was the first sellout of the season at
Turner Field. ... Giles went 0-for-4 and is mired in a 1-for-27
slump. His batting average dropped to .297. ... Fick reached base
in all four plate appearances -- two hits and two walks. ... Rodrigo
Lopez made his second career start against the Braves. He also
faced Atlanta on April 29, 2000, as a member of San Diego. In that
game, he allowed just one run in seven innings but didn't get a
decision. ... Baltimore's Luis Matos, filling in for Mota, made a
diving catch in the third. Fick, Giles and Chipper Jones
contributed fine defensive plays for the Braves. ... RHP Jason
Marquis mopped up in the ninth for Atlanta, his first appearance
since being recalled from the minors June 12.
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