Masterful in his last two starts, Rodrigo Lopez looks to continue his strong pitching as the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles resume a three-game series with the pesky Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Lopez opened the season with two straight wins, yielding one run over 14 innings. However, the right-hander, shuffled between the bullpen and rotation for most of last year despite winning a career-high 14 games, went 0-2 over his next seven starts.
Lopez began turning things around May 25 against Seattle, yielding one run and five hits over eight innings of a 3-1 victory. He backed it up Monday at Fenway Park, limiting Boston to an unearned run and six hits over eight innings in an 8-1 win, striking out five and walking two.
Lopez said good location with his offspeed pitches has been the key to his recent resurgence.
“I’m more concerned to hit my spots instead of throwing hard,” he said. “Today I couldn’t make it with my fastball, but with my breaking ball I had good location.”
The Orioles have been one of the majors’ biggest surprises this year, but still haven’t figured out a way to tame the Tigers. Detroit has won five of six meetings with Baltimore, including three straight at Camden Yards last weekend and Friday’s series-opening 5-3 victory.
Ivan Rodriguez homered and hit a tiebreaking double, and Jason Johnson pitched into the ninth inning for the Tigers, who have won six of seven to reach .500 this late in a season for the first time since Sept. 8, 2000.
“I’ve been here since 2001 and I’ve never been close,” said Detroit’s Brandon Inge. “I’ve been through more downs than ups. To be right at .500, being able to knock on the door with a respectable record, is something I’ve never been through here. I’m very happy.
“If we can just keep rolling with this, anything is possible.”
Detroit has handed Baltimore nearly one-fourth of its losses, one season after going 0-6 against the Orioles.
“They’re a good team,” Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said. “They’ve been giving us trouble.”