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Robinson Grad Returns Home to Face the Nats

Veteran reliever Javier Lopez played at the University of Virginia before beginning a pro career that includes helping Boston and San Francisco win the World Series.

Javier Lopez, a product of Fairfax Little League, sat in the third-base dugout of the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park before Tuesday's game against Washington.

He looked out at the field during batting practice and envisioned more than just a three-game series between first-place teams in the National League.

"My friends have told me this could be the (preview of) the National League Championship Series. That would be nice,"  Lopez, a 1995 graduate of , said with a smile. "The teams are playing hot right now and that would be great."

A left-handed reliever, Lopez is used to being with winners. He was a member of World Series champs with the Red Sox in 2007 and the Giants in 2010.

"A lot of it has been trial and error," said Lopez, a former standout at the University of Virginia who went to Laurel Ridge Elementary School in the Kings Park neighborhood of Fairfax. "It has not been that smooth of a ride. I don't dwell on the negatives or the past and I move forward. I have become an elder statesman and try to stay on an even keel. I have been fortunate to stay healthy."

Lopez plans to leave about 15 tickets for the first two games of the three game series, which continues Wednesday at 11:05 a.m. and ends with Thursday's  7:05 p.m. match-up.  Among those family members who plan to attend at least one of the games are his two sisters Sarah and Rosanna, who live in Stafford and Columbia, Va., respectively.

Lopez said his former Robinson High baseball coaches, former Mason player Tom Peterson and Bill Evers, also plan to attend at least one game of the series; the Giants play just one series each year in D.C.

Lopez now lives in Colorado with his wife, Renee, and two-year-old daughter Kylan. He graduated from Virginia with a degree in psychology. His wife and child have joined him for this series in Washington.

Still a die-hard fan of the Washington Redskins, Lopez roots for other pro teams from his home area. So what does he think of the surprising Nationals?

"I think it's great. Obviously I am a homer when it comes to the Redskins, Capitals and Wizards. It is a great time for (the Nats) to do it. They have drafted well. It is a great time for this team to get hot. It is a division they can definitely win," he said.

As a pitcher at Robinson, Lopez set strikeouts records -- some which were broken by current Houston prospect Paul Clemens. He was drafted out of Virginia in 1998 by Arizona, and made his Major Legue debut with Colorado in 2003.

Lopez has also pitched for Arizona, Boston and Pittsburgh. He pitched in one game for the Red Sox in the 2007 World Series as Boston won the title, and he pitched in two games in the 2010 Fall Classic as the Giants won the World Series.

Lopez, who turns 35 on July 11, was born in Puerto Rico, but moved with his family to Fairfax as a young child. In games through Monday he was 3-0 with an ERA of 3.31 with one save in 35 games out of the bullpen this year for the Giants. "I have to go out there and be consistent," said Lopez, who has an ERA of 2.19 in 13 games against Washington in his career.

His career marks going into the series in Washington were 23-11 with an ERA of 3.93 in 525 games, all out of the bullpen. He has finished 106 games during his career, with six saves.

Lopez (No. 49 for the Giants) is not the only member of the team with ties to this area. Infielder Emmanuel Burriss grew up in Washington, D.C., and played baseball at Wilson High in Northwest before starring in college at Kent State in Ohio. He was a first-round pick of the Giants in 2006 out of Kent State. Both Lopez and Burriss enjoying talking about the Redskins.

Lopez wouldn't mind a trip back to face the Nationals in the playoffs. "There are still plenty of friends here," he said.

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Lopez pitched the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday, and allowed two hits and one run, as Washington beat the Giants 9-3. Lopez now has an ERA of 3.43 this season.

Susan Larson (Editor) July 05, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Update from David Driver: "Lopez pitched for the second game in a row on Wednesday as he retired two batters and gave up a walk and a hit, all in the span of nine pitches in the eighth inning as the Nats beat the Giants again, this time 9-4." Thursday's game three of the series begins at 7:05 p.m.
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