7th is lucky for streaking O's

Reboulet's bloop bunt, Ponson's 3rd complete game drop Royals, 2-1

June 17, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

If Jeff Reboulet, or any of the Orioles for that matter, were looking for another sign yesterday that their luck has changed for the better, it came in the seventh inning. In the form of a bunt that didn't go exactly where it was intended. In a game that didn't slow their sudden burst of momentum.

Hoping to push the ball through the hole on the right side of the infield, Reboulet popped it over the head of Kansas City first baseman Jeremy Giambi to score Harold Baines from third and provide Sidney Ponson with the only margin he needed in a 2-1 victory before 41,913 at Camden Yards.

"Sometimes when things are going good, they go good," Reboulet said.

He was describing the bunt. He could have been including Ponson, or the team in general.

Ponson (7-4) turned in his third complete game, tops in the American League, to extend the Orioles' winning streak to seven. It also provided their third sweep this year and first at home since May 4-6 against Chicago.

Held to seven hits by Royals left-hander Jose Rosado, the Orioles (28-36) resorted to little ball in the seventh to provide the biggest plays.

Baines, a .500 lifetime hitter in 14 at-bats against Rosado coming in, poked the inning's first pitch just inside the third base bag for a double. Given instructions to move the runner but not necessarily with a bunt, Cal Ripken laid one down to Rosado's right. He fielded the ball and went to third, where Joe Randa was slow to cover as he yelled for the young pitcher to throw to first. Baines slid in safely, and the rally was in full bloom.

Then came the head games.

The Royals held a conference on the mound, which convinced Reboulet that second baseman Carlos Febles would be charging along with Giambi. He was given the bunt-to-hit sign, a favorite of manager Ray Miller's that he said is a "no-brainer" in such a situation, with runners on the corners and a hitter with little power at the plate.

"I decided I was going to bunt it hard between first and second and force them to make a play," Reboulet said.

He lifted the ball more than he wanted, and closer to Giambi than he preferred. The ball fell near the edge of the outfield grass, where Febles retrieved it as Reboulet crossed the bag with only his third RBI of the season.

"I'd like to say we've been working on it, but we haven't," Miller said. "Rebs is worth his weight in gold. It seems like when he plays everyone is pulling for him because they know how hard he works. I wish he had hit it a little harder. He would have had a triple."

Said Reboulet: "I haven't been getting them in too well from third, so I knew Ray was going to try something. I can't say I wanted to get it over the first baseman's head, but we're on a roll. Things are working well for us."

Rosado (4-6) got the last three outs on fly balls to right and also went the distance, but ended up with his first loss in three decisions at Camden Yards, which he entered with a career 1.80 ERA as a starter. At one point he retired 10 in a row and 14 of 15 before Baines' double.

On any other day, it would have been enough. But not with Ponson blanking the Royals after the first inning and lowering the starters' ERA to 2.26 over the past 11 games.

He had 116 pitches after eight innings, but was allowed to finish what he started. The last out, a grounder to second by left-handed-hitting Scott Pose with the tying run at first, came with left-hander Arthur Rhodes ready in the bullpen.

"I guess I'm just blessed. God gave me a good blessing and I'm doing the best that I can," said Ponson, who scattered nine hits.

"I just worry about winning ballgames. It doesn't matter if I go five, six or seven innings. I always shoot for seven. If eight or nine comes, it's a bonus."

The Royals collected three hits off him in the first inning, but the only run scored on a grounder by Jermaine Dye. They put two runners on in the third, had three reach in the fifth -- though Pose was cut down trying to steal by Charles Johnson -- and one each in the three of the last four innings without breaking through.

The Orioles tied the game in the first and depended on Ponson to hold the Royals. They got a leadoff triple by center fielder Rich Amaral, who later singled and has 12 hits in his last 26 at-bats to raise his average from .179 to .292, and a sacrifice fly by Mike Bordick.

Amaral's triple damaged more than just the Royals' lead. Dye fielded the ball in right-center and hit the cutofff man, Febles. Febles' throw to third was intercepted by the forehead of shortstop Rey Sanchez, who was crouched about 10 feet away as he realized that Febles didn't hear his instructions to hold up.

After being helped to his feet, Sanchez slowly walked off the field clutching a towel above his left eye, and needed 11 stitches to close the gash. That's three more than first baseman Mike Sweeney required on Monday after his foul ball bounced off the ground and struck him above the right eye.

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