02/03/2004 9:08 PM ET
Caribbean notes: Lopez follows suit
Gives Mexicans two straight gems
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- At the beginning of this year's Caribbean Series, one look at the rosters of the four teams showed that Mexico's only chance to win the title was by pitching themselves to it.
|Rodrigo Lopez did not allow an earned run in six innings in Mexico's 10-4 pounding of Puerto Rico. (Andres Leighton/AP)
Three days later, the Culiacan Tomato Growers are proving those forecasts to be correct.
For the second day in a row, Mexico got a brilliant pitching performance from an established Major League player.
On Monday, it was Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Elmer Dessens shutting down Magglio Ordoñez, Miguel Cabrera and the powerful Venezuela team.
On Tuesday, Baltimore Orioles hurler Rodrigo Lopez followed suit, not allowing an earned run in six innings in Mexico's 10-4 pounding of Puerto Rico.
The Licey Tigers of the Dominican Republic remain the heavy favorites to win the six-day round-robin tournament, but Culiacan's pitching is keeping its hopes alive.
"These guys are Major League pitchers," said Mexico shortstop Benji Gil, who helped Lopez's cause Tuesday with a home run and three RBIs.
"Every day they're out there, we have a chance to win. And Rodrigo is a very good pitcher. What he did today is not surprising."
Lopez said part of his success was luck.
"I had a good fastball, but my slider was hanging," Lopez said. "So I just kept throwing the fastball. And my sinker was key for this game. Without that, I would have been in trouble."
Lopez added that it's always easier to pitch when your team is banging out 15 hits and putting so much offense on the board.
"Sure, you get relaxed pretty quick when that happens," Lopez said.
"That makes you more aggressive."
Umpire issues: Controversy swelled Tuesday over Monday's ejection of Puerto Rican player Raul Gonzalez and manager Jose Cruz, who were livid over a called third strike on Gonzalez by umpire Brian Hale, an American who worked the Dominican League during the winter season.
Hale was assigned to four of the Dominican team's six games, including both against their archrivals from the Puerto Rican champion Ponce club.
Ponce general manager Ramon Conde said Tuesday he had scheduled a meeting with Caribbean baseball confederation chairman Benny Agosto to "get an explanation."
"We don't want this guy to work Friday's game (against the Dominicans)," Conde said. "It's too much [of a] coincidence that this guy works four of the six Dominican Republic games, with both of the games against Puerto Rico. Something is not right here."
Cruz was still seething before his team's 10-4 loss to Mexico on Tuesday.
"The pitches looked great, but Hale said that some were outside and other ones were inside," Cruz said.
"Inconsistency was the order of the night. The umpire thought that the fans were here to see him. He was against us. He tried to take the spotlight."
Miggy ain't mad: The Dominicans might have been hit by three pitches in their 5-0, rain-aborted victory over Puerto Rico on Monday night, but their shortstop, Miguel Tejada, said before Tuesday's game that he doesn't think it was intentional.
And Tejada got hit twice -- once with the bases loaded by Puerto Rican starter Dicky Gonzalez, and once by reliever Bryan Ward.
"I don't think the pitchers had bad intentions against us," Tejada said. "A lot of it had to do with the poor conditions of the field."
After the game, the Baltimore Orioles' new shortstop was more willing to discuss happier subjects, such as the overwhelming ovations he has been receiving from the hometown crowd every time he bats and his name comes booming over the loudspeakers.
"That's the reason I play each year in my country," Tejada said. "I'm very appreciative for the support."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.