Series: Game 1 of 3

Baltimore leads 1-0 (as of 6/23)

Game 1: Friday, June 23
Game 2: Saturday, June 24
Game 3: Sunday, June 25

Nationals 1

(32-43, 17-24 away)

Orioles 2

(34-41, 21-19 home)

    7:05 PM ET, June 23, 2006

    Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland 

    123456789 R H E
    WAS 000000100 1 8 1
    BAL 00100100 - 2 8 0

    W: R. Lopez (5-8)

    L: J. Patterson (1-1)

    S: C. Ray (19)

    Lopez dominates in O's narrow win vs. struggling Nats

    BALTIMORE (AP) -- Chris Ray watched from the bullpen as Rodrigo Lopez did a masterful job for seven innings against the Washington Nationals.

    Ray remained seated as LaTroy Hawkins retired the side in the eighth. Then, as the Baltimore Orioles batted in the bottom half, the young closer began throwing -- hard.

    Finally, when the game turned to the ninth inning, Ray trotted in from center field with one thought on his mind: Redemption.

    Ray bounced back from his first blown save of the season in fine fashion, pitching a perfect ninth to seal the Orioles' 2-1 victory Friday night.

    One night earlier, Ray yielded two ninth-inning homers to Florida and lost a four-run lead in his first blown save of the season. He wasn't about to let it happen again against Washington.

    "It's a great feeling, getting the opportunity to come back out and finish the game," he said. "I wasn't going to blow this one, that's for sure."

    Ray needed only nine pitches to strike out Royce Clayton and retire Brian Schneider and Marlon Byrd on grounders. It was his 19th save in 20 chances.

    "I was hoping beyond all hopes that he was going to get in tonight," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I wanted that outing erased and had total confidence that he would step up."

    Melvin Mora drove in a run and scored one for the Orioles, who improved to 3-27 when scoring three runs or fewer.

    Lopez (5-8) gave up seven hits, struck out seven and walked none. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.99 ERA in his last six starts after going 1-7 with an 8.07 ERA in his first 10.

    "I'm just trying to put everything behind me," Lopez said. "It's like it's been two different seasons. Hopefully I can work hard and be the same Rodrigo I have been the last couple of years."

    A sellout crowd of 48,331 contained a few thousand Nationals fans, but it might be some time before Washington vs. Baltimore can be considered an intense rivalry.

    "It's going to take a lot of work on both sides. Time is also involved," said Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who played for and managed the Orioles. "You can't just have a rivalry because you're close by. It's got to be that both teams are going to be competitive."

    Robinson said that before the game. Afterward, when asked to assess Lopez's performance, he bemoaned his team's lack of offense.

    "It's hard to judge how good their pitchers are because our ballclub is so inept it's unbelievable," he said. "We don't give ourselves very many chances, and the chances we do get we don't get the big base hit."

    The Nationals were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

    "I think everybody is trying to hit a home run," Robinson said. "Everybody is trying to do it all themselves, one guy. One person can't do it."

    It was the fourth straight loss for Washington, which was outscored 26-9 in dropping three at Boston.

    Clayton and Jose Vidro had three hits apiece for the Nationals, who have lost nine of 11.

    John Patterson, activated from the disabled list before the game after missing 62 days with a strained forearm, allowed one earned run and six hits in six innings. Patterson (1-1) struck out three and walked none.

    "Arm feels good. No problems," he said.

    Washington trailed 2-0 before finally breaking through in the seventh. Clayton led off with a single, moved to third on a single by Schneider and scored on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Daryle Ward.

    Lopez then finished his fine effort by striking out Alfonso Soriano.

    After the Nationals wasted a leadoff double by Damian Jackson in the third inning, Baltimore took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half. Nick Markakis got an infield hit and advanced on a single and a bunt before Mora hit a sacrifice fly.

    The Orioles went up 2-0 in the sixth. Mora reached on an error by Clayton at shortstop, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Corey Patterson.

    Game notes

    To make room for John Patterson, the Nationals placed right-hander Tony Armas Jr. (strained forearm) on the 15-day DL. ... The sellout crowd pushed the Orioles over 1 million in home attendance in their 40th home game. ... Washington agreed to terms with right-hander Colton Willems, the 22nd overall pick in the June amateur draft.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press