Lopez handcuffs Astros to four hits

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Coming home after a shaky two-week road trip,
the Baltimore Orioles were eager to right themselves against the
lowly Houston Astros.

Nothing less than a sweep would do, and that's what they got.

Rodrigo Lopez pitched eight innings of four-hit ball, and
Baltimore made it three in a row over Houston with a 5-1 victory
Wednesday night.

Melvin Mora homered, Jay Gibbons had three hits and Brian
Roberts went 2-for-3 with two RBI for the Orioles, who outscored
Houston 19-7 in their first interleague sweep since July 1999,
against Montreal.

Baltimore had lost four of five to conclude a 6-7 road swing
before feasting on the Astros, who came to town with a five-game
winning streak and a 7-23 record on the road.

"There are certain times when you obviously need to win, and
this is one of those times," Roberts said. "We played OK on the
road, and then when you get home you need to win, especially if
you're playing teams that are kind of down and not really playing
as well as they would like."

That pretty much describes the Astros, who got a home run from
Jason Lane but did little else offensively in losing their sixth
straight interleague road game. Houston has scored one run or fewer
in 13 of its 33 road games, including the last two of this series.

"Once again we didn't get much going," said Houston's Craig
Biggio, who went 2-for-12 in the sweep.

The Astros totaled eight hits in the final two games and never
held the lead.

"The answer is to grind it out and get good at-bats," Houston
manager Phil Garner said. "Let's have a good game and see what
happens. Right now, I'd be happy with just one hit when we needed
it. Just put the ball in play when we have men on base."

That's what happened in the first inning, but a stellar
defensive play by Roberts at second base saved a run and enabled
the Orioles to take control in the bottom half.

With runners at the corners and two outs, Roberts went deep in
the hole to snare a grounder by Morgan Ensberg. While prone, he
unleashed a throw to first that beat the runner.

"That play kind of set the tone," Baltimore manager Lee
Mazzilli said.

Garner said, "Maybe if we had scored that run early, it would
have come out differently."

The Orioles went up 2-0 when Roberts hit a leadoff single and
Mora drove a fastball into the left-field seats for his 14th home

Baltimore used an infield hit, a hit batter and a walk to load
the bases in the second inning for Roberts, who delivered a two-run
single to make it 4-0.

"That's what we have to do, score early. Then Rodrigo can be
more relaxed," Mora said.

Lopez (6-2) allowed one run, struck out seven and walked one in
winning his fourth straight decision. He's 4-1 in 10 starts since
April 21 -- the last day the Orioles were not in first place in the
AL East.

It was the 19th time this season that a Baltimore starter went
at least seven innings without giving up more than one earned run.
Todd Williams worked the ninth to complete the four-hitter.

Rookie Wandy Rodriguez (2-3) gave up four runs in the first two
innings, putting the Astros in a hole from which they could not
recover. The left-hander ended up allowing four runs, seven hits
and three walks in six innings.

Lopez retired 11 straight before Lane led off the fifth with his
10th home run on a 3-1 pitch. It was his second homer in the series
and fifth in 11 games this month.

After Baltimore loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh
against John Franco, Miguel Tejada hit a sacrifice fly off Dan
Wheeler for a 5-1 lead.

Game notes
Houston turned a season-high four double plays. The Astros
ended the first three innings with 1-6-3 DPs, twice victimizing
Rafael Palmeiro. ... Houston's Willy Taveras went 0-for-4 and was
1-for-14 in the series. ... Baltimore OF Napoleon Calzado, who was
designated for assignment Monday, cleared waivers and was optioned
to Triple-A Ottawa.