Orioles 3, Rangers 1

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BALTIMORE (AP)—In his return to Baltimore, Scott Erickson accomplished just about everything he set out to do in his debut with the Texas Rangers.

The right-hander felt strong on the mound, limited the Orioles to three runs and received praise from his manager.

The only thing missing was a win.

That went to Rodrigo Lopez, who outpitched his former teammate in leading Baltimore to its fifth straight victory, 3-1 Saturday.

Lopez (9-7) allowed only two hits, walked none and struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings. He faced only one batter over the minimum and retired his first 10 hitters, six by strikeouts.

“What a great game he pitched,” Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Lopez had retired eight straight hitters when Mazzilli lifted him with two outs and none on in the seventh with left-handed batter Hank Blalock coming to the plate.

“If it was my decision, I would stay on in every game, not just in today’s game,” Lopez said. “He made his decision. It was the right decision and it was good for the team.”

Said Mazzilli: “That’s the spot when you’ve got to go to your best. What Rodrigo did was fantastic, and you want him to go out on a good note.”

B.J. Ryan struck out Blalock and gave up one hit in 1 1-3 innings. Jorge Julio worked the ninth for his 18th save in 20 chances despite allowing a home run to Alfonso Soriano.

Erickson (0-1) yielded 10 hits and two walks in 5 2-3 innings, but was sharp enough to keep the damage to a minimum.

“All that matters is you want to win the game. We just got outplayed a little bit today,” he said. “I did give up 10 hits in almost six innings, but all singles, actually two doubles. They weren’t hit real hard, but just found the open spots, which is pretty typical for my career.”

Erickson was with the Orioles from 1995 through last season. Obtained in a trade with the New York Mets last week, he pitched well enough to maintain his spot in the starting rotation.

“I’m proud of the effort by Scott today. His stuff was good, and he gave us a chance to win. That was good to see,” Texas manager Buck Showalter said. “I feel bad for Scott. I think he broke five bats that went for base hits and things fell well for them.”

Erickson missed the 2001 season after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery and sat out last year following a shoulder operation. He was 79-68 with the Orioles and won two playoff games.

“It was nice to come back here. I had some great memories here and great years and a great experience playing for the Orioles, and still there’s nothing I would’ve rather done today than win the game and beat them,” he said. “You want to go out and win every game possible.”

Rafael Palmeiro passed Mel Ott on the career hits list to help the Orioles match their longest winning streak of the season, and Miguel Tejada reached the 100-RBI mark for the fifth consecutive year.

“I’m happy to get 100 RBIs, but what makes me more happy is the way we play,” Tejada said.

Palmeiro had two hits to move into 35th place on the career list with 2,877. His third-inning double was his 1,139th extra-base hit, tying him with Ty Cobb for 10th place.

The loss kept the Rangers a half-game behind first-place Oakland in the AL West. Texas, which has scored only two runs in the first two games of the series, has dropped seven straight to Baltimore.

The Orioles went up 1-0 in the first inning when David Newhan drew a one-out walk and scored on a double by Tejada.

Erickson worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, but Baltimore added two runs in the third. Tejada reached on a fielder’s choice and went to third on a double by Palmeiro before Javy Lopez hit a sacrifice fly and B.J. Surhoff singled in Palmeiro.

Notes

Baltimore (51-57) moved within six games of .500 for the first time since June 15. … Julio’s save was his third during Baltimore’s winning streak. … Before the game, Texas recalled right-hander Rosman Garcia from Triple-A Oklahoma and optioned left-hander Ryan Snare to the minor league club.