6 Jays HRs make O's long gone

Toronto sweeps, 11-6, ends O's crushing 3-13 stretch vs. East foes

Otanez homers twice

Hairston has 4 hits, but Ponson pounded

July 09, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

There were no late-inning fireworks. There was no heartbreaking bullpen breakdown. The Orioles went down in a hail of home runs and completed one of the most disheartening divisional stretches in the history of the franchise.

The 16-game stretch against American League East opponents provided the perfect opportunity for the Orioles to re-assert themselves, but they did just the opposite. Their 11-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday afternoon at Camden Yards completed a three-game sweep and closed out the 2 1/2-week divisional run with a 3-13 record that all but ended any hope of salvaging a lost season.

The Blue Jays aren't exactly on the fast track to the playoffs, but they had little trouble defeating the Orioles for the 11th time in 12 meetings this year. They hit a record-tying six home runs against starter Sidney Ponson and reliever Rocky Coppinger to drop the Orioles' divisional record to 6-25 -- by far the worst of any major-league team.

"I find that hard to believe," said Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi. "They have been a streaky team. They won 11 of 12 recently, so there have been times when they've pitched well and played very well. There's a lot of talent there. You can't take that club lightly."

Former Oriole Willis Otanez, hitting in the eighth slot, provided some early fireworks with a two-run home run in the second inning off Ponson and then hit a bases-empty shot off Coppinger in the sixth. No. 7 hitter Tony Batista also homered twice, first baseman Carlos Delgado added a two-run blast and Shannon Stewart hit a bases-empty shot.

"They hit the ball well," said Orioles manager Ray Miller. "Obviously, they've got some pop in their lineup. The 7-8-9 hitters have been doing the job for them all year."

The Jays became only the second opponent ever to hit six home runs in a game against the Orioles in Baltimore -- the '59 Cleveland Indians were the first -- and they became only the fifth team to hold an Orioles team to just one victory in a season series of 12 games or more.

What a collapse. The Orioles were riding a 10-1 wave when they opened a three-game series against Boston on June 22 and were a good week away from getting back into wild-card contention. They tantalized their fans with a victory in the first game of that series, then lost the next 10 in a row to fall back into the AL East cellar.

The Blue Jays accounted for three of those losses with a series sweep at SkyDome and extended their head-to-head winning streak against the Orioles to 10 games with the sweep at Oriole Park.

"We came into the season thinking that this is a club we had to beat to be a contender," said Fregosi. "We've played very well against them. We've come back against them a number of times."

The Orioles were not without a few encouraging performances. Rookie second baseman Jerry Hairston had four hits in five at-bats and continued to make a case for keeping his place in the starting lineup. Harold Baines had three more hits, and B. J. Surhoff reached base four times. But that was not close to enough.

The defeat yesterday came at the expense of young right-hander Sidney Ponson, who has been one of the bright spots in this dim season. He entered the game with a 7-5 record and a solid 3.70 ERA, but could not keep the ball in the park on one of those breezy summer afternoons that turns Camden Yards into a launching pad. He would be charged with seven earned runs on 10 hits over five-plus innings to raise his ERA to 4.10.

Ponson surrendered a one-out single to Darrin Fletcher in the second inning and surrendered Otanez's first home run, a 368-foot shot to left. The Blue Jays parlayed a string of bloop hits into two more runs in the third and scored twice in the fifth on Delgado's 20th home run.

The Orioles hung around for a while. They loaded the bases with no one out in the first inning but had to settle for one run -- which scored when cleanup hitter Albert Belle grounded into a double play. They closed to within 4-3 in the third on an RBI double by red-hot Surhoff and a run-scoring single by Baines. But the Blue Jays just kept hammering away.

Batista drove Ponson from the game with his first homer, a bases-empty shot to lead off the sixth. Otanez greeted Coppinger with his second homer of the game, a drive to straightaway left that traveled 386 feet. Batista completed a career performance by wrapping a two-run shot around the left-field foul pole in the seventh, and Stewart hit the Blue Jays' sixth home run of the game -- their third off Coppinger -- in the eighth.

"This was a good game for me," said Otanez, who was designated for assignment by the Orioles in May. "I'm happy about it, but it's nothing personal. They treated me well, but I have to enjoy this game."

The Orioles didn't get into the high-wire act until the bottom of the seventh, when Baines hit his 19th home run of the season, a historic shot that tied him with Don Baylor for the most home runs by a designated hitter (219). The homer was Baines' 367th overall. Belle added a bases-empty shot to left in the ninth, his 18th of the year.

Blue Jays starter Kelvim Escobar was long gone by then. He worked six innings and gave up four runs on nine hits to improve his record to 8-6, giving way to reliever Paul Quantrill, the first of three Blue Jays relievers.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies

Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM) Starters: O's Juan Guzman (4-6, 4.39) vs. Phillies' Curt Schilling (12-4, 3.20)

Pub Date: 7/09/99

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