Javy Lopez knew his mini-slump wouldn’t last long.
Lopez, who is having the best season of his career, had gone seven games without a home run. On Saturday, he hit a pair of three-run shots to lead the Braves to a 10-2 rout.
“Javy took a few games off,” Braves first baseman Robert Fick quipped. “I was wondering when he was going to start hitting two homers a game again.”
The veteran catcher is batting .306 with 21 homers. He hit only 11 homers last season.
“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.”
The Braves will try to sweep their first series since winning two straight against the Pittsburgh from June 7-8.
The Orioles played without Melvin Mora on Saturday. Mora, who leads the American League with a .361 batting average, sat out after being struck on the right hand with a pitch from Greg Maddux on Friday.
Baltimore has lost four straight and five of six.
STANDINGS: Orioles - 4th place, 10 1/2 GB, AL East. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Jason Johnson (5-3, 4.00 ERA). Johnson is winless in his last three starts, going 0-1 with a 7.30 ERA. Last Saturday, he worked 4 2-3 innings, allowing five runs—three earned—and nine hits in an 8-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. The 29-year-old right-hander has never faced the Braves.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Shane Reynolds (5-1, 5.24 ERA). Reynolds has not suffered a loss in nine straight starts, but he has five no-decisions in that span. On Tuesday, he went four innings, giving up three runs and nine hits in the Braves’ 5-4 loss to Philadelphia. The 35-year-old right-hander will be making his first start against the Orioles.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Orioles - Mora, .361 avg. and 44 runs; Jay Gibbons, 13 HRs and 52 RBIs; Jerry Hairston Jr., 14 SBs. Braves - Gary Sheffield, .346 avg., 61 RBIs and 63 runs; Sheffield and Lopez, 21 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 12 SBs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Orioles - 4-10. Braves - 8-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Orioles - 1B Jeff Conine is batting .417 (10-for-24) with two homers and nine RBIs in his career against RHP Reynolds. … 3B Tony Batista is 1-for-16 over his last four games. … RHP Johnson has one hit in 16 career at-bats, including 12 strikeouts. Braves - 2B Marcus Giles went 0-for-4 Saturday and is mired in a 1-for-27 slump. … RHP Jason Marquis pitched a scoreless ninth on Saturday, his first appearance since being recalled from the minors June 12. … RHP Paul Byrd, recovering from elbow surgery, pitched two innings in a simulated game before batting practice Saturday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Orioles - 15-20 on the road; Braves - 26-9 at home.
INJURIES: Orioles - INF Hairston Jr. (leg), 15-day DL; OF Larry Bigbie (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL. Braves - RHP Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Roberto Hernandez (abdomen), 15-day DL.