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As Palmeiro plugs ears, O's fall with a thud again


TORONTO - Rafael Palmeiro wore earplugs last night after being booed in his first at-bat at Rogers Centre, more backlash from his steroid-related suspension. The Orioles continue to play as if blindfolds should be mandatory for anyone watching.

Rodrigo Lopez allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, an early lead quickly disappearing, and the Toronto Blue Jays rolled past the Orioles, 7-2, before 25,311.

The Orioles (61-70) have lost 10 of 11 and 30 of 42 to fall a season-worst nine games below .500. They got a leadoff home run from Brian Roberts in the first, but Toronto scored four runs in the second on a triple, two singles and two doubles.

Lopez (13-8) had won four of his past five starts, but the Blue Jays pounded him for 11 hits.

"Those guys are pretty good with men on base, especially with runners on second," he said.

Palmeiro went 0-for-4 and received a harsh greeting in his first game in Toronto since the suspension. In his second at-bat, television cameras gave viewers a close-up of a plug in his left exposed ear. The other ear was covered by a flap on his batting helmet, but two plugs sat in his locker.

"I've never really seen that," interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I didn't even notice it until the last at-bat when somebody said something to me."

Palmeiro declined to meet with reporters after the game, saying he'd be more comfortable talking today.

"As people in general, you want to be accepted," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "For 99 percent of his career, he has been. For that to completely change now, I don't know if any of us can comprehend what he's going through. By his expressions, you can tell it's definitely beating him up. It's a situation you wouldn't put your worst enemy in."

This was Palmeiro's second road game since the suspension, the other one coming in Oakland. The reception figures to be just as loud tonight.

"I can't make out the lineup worrying about who's going to boo and who's going to cheer," Perlozzo said.

The manager did some damage control before the game, saying he never intended to send the message Monday afternoon that Palmeiro would spend most of the remaining games on the bench. He simply wants to play the hottest hands, and so far, Palmeiro has been pretty cold since returning from a 10-day suspension.

"I don't know where that came from," he said.

Palmeiro is 2-for-26 with one RBI in seven games since rejoining the club, a sprained right ankle and slump keeping him from playing every day. He served as the designated hitter last night after his foot began bothering him.

"The only time I really talked to Raffy was when he first came back and he had been out for a while. I said, 'I'll work you in there as best I can until you get yourself going a little bit.' He's been good with everything," Perlozzo said.

Roberts back to earth

As he continued to set a torrid offensive pace in the first half, All-Star second baseman Roberts predicted that something like this would happen.

He figured to hit a slump that would pull down his average, which settled at .345 at the break. His power surge, which led to 15 homers then, also would lighten.

Even as he's come down to earth a bit, Roberts, who went 2-for-3 last night, still is hitting .313 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs. He is batting .256 (45-for-176) in the second half.

"I always believed that I was a .300 hitter at this level," he said. "You don't necessarily want to get there by hitting .390 in the first half and .200 in the second. You'd like to hit .310 the whole year, but that's not going to happen. That's not this game.

"You certainly know that at some point you are going to go through a struggle. You don't anticipate it and you don't look for it, but at some point it's going to happen. I don't care who you are."

Roberts said fatigue hasn't contributed to the decline in his numbers.

"I was as strong and as ready to go as possible last year and I started 0-for-17," he said. "It's just this game. There's no telling when you're going to be hot and when you're going to go through your struggles."

While noting that pitchers have made adjustments against him, including not throwing as many first-pitch, middle-of-the-plate fastballs that Roberts feasted upon in the first half, he won't use it as an excuse, either.

"I've been here for three years, so it's not like they didn't have a scouting report already," he said. "I have no idea. ... It's this game. When you get 700 at-bats, I don't know anybody that has hit .312 from Day One to the end."

Sun staff writer Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.

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