SEATTLE -- Rodrigo Lopez wasn't worried.
Not with his career-long losing streak at seven games. Not with him having the AL's second-highest ERA (8.07) and second-most losses (7). Not even after he hadn't won in nine starts.
"I was worried three or four starts ago," the Baltimore Orioles' opening day starter said. "Now, it was like, what's the worst that's going to happen?"
The unsuspecting Seattle Mariners found out.
Lopez allowed two hits in 7 1/3 dominant innings of the Orioles' 2-0 victory over the Mariners on Thursday that split the four-game series and renewed the Baltimore ace's faith in himself.
Seattle had been averaging seven runs per game during a 5-1 homestand. Yet Lopez (2-7) retired 18 consecutive batters from Raul Ibanez's first-inning single to Richie Sexson's single with two outs in the seventh. Lopez, who struck out four, ended the longest losing streak of his six-season career.
"We were trying to slow him down, but he got strike one all the time," Sexson said. "It's Greg Maddux. Same guy. He hasn't done that all year -- but he did today."
Gil Meche (4-3) pitched perhaps his best game of his season, just on the wrong day. The inconsistent Meche struck out a season-high 10 -- one short of his career high. He walked two and allowed only four hits in seven innings.
But Lopez was better. His medium-speed fastballs and sharp sinkers sent Seattle to its second loss in seven games.
"That's about as good as I've seen him pitch for us. He was outstanding," Jay Gibbons said.
Gibbons singled home Brian Roberts with the second run in the third inning. Roberts doubled twice and scored both Baltimore runs in his second game since returning from the disabled list because of a strained left groin.
Gibbons was playing his first game since his relatively healthy mother died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning in Southern California. Baltimore's stunned cleanup batter had missed Tuesday's game because he had spent all day and night inside the team hotel.
"It was good to get some sense of normalcy back -- and that's all I'll say on that," Gibbons said.
Gibbons will leave the team on Sunday to attend his mother's funeral. He will rejoin the Orioles for their homestand opener against Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
"For him to show up and even play is a tribute to himself ... to see what he did was pretty amazing," manager Sam Perlozzo said.
Lopez had allowed 13 home runs, fourth-most in the AL. He had allowed at least four runs in all 10 of his starts. His only win had been 10 starts ago, on opening day against Tampa Bay -- only after allowing six runs in seven innings.
Perlozzo credited pitching coach Leo Mazzone for working with Lopez on not short-arming his pitches, not recoiling his arm and body until well after he throws.
Lopez credited that -- plus his attempt to not throw as hard during a focus on pitch location.
That resulted in what Jeremy Reed of the Mariners called "a BP fastball."
"Everything was working for him," Reed said.
"This was my first good start of the season," Lopez said. "When you are struggling like I was, one start, one win, does a lot for you. It makes me feel more secure, more confident."
Seattle batters looked neither. They meekly popped out to infielders four times against Lopez. Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4 overall to end his AL season-high 18-game hitting streak.
The Mariners scraped out two or fewer hits for the fourth time this season. They were shut out for the sixth time. That is one more than last season, when they were last in the AL in batting and second-to-last in runs scored.
The 2006 Mariners are tied with Minnesota and the Chicago Cubs for most times shut out in the major leagues.
Closer Chris Ray replaced Lopez after his first walk, to Reed with one out in the eighth. Ray retired pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine -- when rookie left fielder Nick Markakis made a charging, flopping catch of a line drive -- and then struck out Yuniesky Betancourt.
Ray finished the ninth for his 12th save in 12 chances. Perlozzo said he chose Ray earlier than usual because Lopez deserved the win.
"And if you don't get it, you do it with your best," Perlozzo reasoned.
|Chris Ray (right) comes on in relief and retires five straight to pick up his 12th save of the season. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Brian Roberts, 2B||4||2||2||0||0||2||0||.333|
|Melvin Mora, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||3||2||.292|
|Miguel Tejada, SS||4||0||1||1||0||0||1||.333|
|Jay Gibbons, RF||3||0||1||1||1||1||0||.268|
|Luis Matos, LF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.148|
|Ramon Hernandez, DH-C||4||0||0||0||0||2||3||.304|
|Javy Lopez, C||2||0||0||0||1||0||2||.262|
|Corey Patterson, CF||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.297|
|Jeff Conine, 1B||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.229|
|Nick Markakis, LF-RF||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.222|
|2B - Brian Roberts 2 (10, Meche, Meche), Miguel Tejada (9, Meche)|
|RBI - Miguel Tejada (36), Jay Gibbons (28)|
|2-OUT RBI - Jay Gibbons (10)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|Rodrigo Lopez (W,2-7)||7.1||2||0||0||1||4||0||7.16|
|Chris Ray (S,12)||1.2||0||0||0||0||2||0||2.33|
|Pitches-Strikes - Rodrigo Lopez 88-63, Chris Ray 20-13|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Rodrigo Lopez 8-10|
|Batters Faced - Rodrigo Lopez 25, Chris Ray 5|
|Ichiro Suzuki, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||0||.314|
|Jose Lopez, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||.291|
|Raul Ibanez, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.270|
|Richie Sexson, 1B||3||0||1||0||0||1||1||.208|
|Carl Everett, DH||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||.260|
|Adrian Beltre, 3B||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.207|
|Jeremy Reed, CF||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||.225|
|Rene Rivera, C||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.150|
|a- Roberto Petagine, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.222|
|Kenji Johjima, C||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.275|
|Yuniesky Betancourt, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.271|
|a-lined out for Rivera in the 8th|
|DP - J. Lopez-Betancourt-Sexson|
|Gil Meche (L,4-3)||7||4||2||2||2||10||0||4.40|
|Pitches-Strikes - Gil Meche 115-70, Julio Mateo 16-12, Eddie Guardado 9-6|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Gil Meche 4-6, Eddie Guardado 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Gil Meche 26, Julio Mateo 3, Eddie Guardado 3|
|Attendance - 23806|
|Game Time - 2:13|
|Temperature - 57|
|Umpires - Home - Marvin Hudson, First Base - Ed Montague, Second Base - Jerry Layne, Third Base - Mark Wegner|