Indians pour down on O's, 15-7

Flood of walks, hits off Ponson, others add to gloom of rainy day

September 06, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The slow water torture at Camden Yards began in the form of rain yesterday, which caused two early delays. It later took shape as inept pitching. Neither made for pleasurable viewing.

Each time Orioles manager Ray Miller went to the dugout phone to contact the bullpen, he would have been better served ordering a blindfold. Or a stiff drink.

The plate kept moving. Miller kept squirming. The innings kept taking on a life of their own. And it kept getting worse. The Cleveland Indians had 12 runs before the game was official and were able to find enough outs to take a 15-7 victory before an announced crowd of 44,214, their eighth win in nine tries against the Orioles this season.

It marked the 24th time this year the Indians, who padded the American League's best record to 85-51, had scored at least 10 runs in a game. Seven of them came in the fifth inning, when they sent up 11 batters and took turns abusing Sidney Ponson and rookie reliever B. J. Ryan.

Ponson (11-11) walked the bases loaded and was gone without retiring a batter. It matched his shortest outing of the season, the most recent coming July 25, and led to his fourth straight defeat.

He allowed seven earned runs, including third-inning homers to Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, and walked five. Four more batters reached against Ryan in the fifth, including two walks and two-run singles by Thome and Harold Baines, before an out was recorded.

As all this was transpiring, 20-year-old Matt Riley sat in the dugout, contemplating a pitcher's life in this ballpark. To his credit, he didn't rush to the nearest exit.

Ponson has thrown 187 1/3 innings this season, and Miller said he may skip one turn in the rotation. "I think it would be a good idea," Miller said.

A delay of 1 hour, 29 minutes before the first pitch conspired against Ponson, who needed an outlet for his nervous energy.

"He asked me 400 times when to warm up and all that stuff," Miller said. "We had to keep saying, `Sidney, we'll just have to wait.' I don't know how much that took out of him. But it was a pretty rough day for him."

It wasn't a picnic for anyone. Orioles pitchers issued 10 walks, including three by Mike Fetters in the eighth inning, to go with 12 Cleveland hits.

"You can't defend walks and you can't defend home runs," Miller said.

Ponson defended his energy level, saying he's not tired. "It's just that I couldn't make my pitches," he said. "I'll just keep working hard and keep going out there."

Ramirez's homer, a two-run shot that struck the right-field foul pole, was his 38th this season and the 192nd of his career, tying him with Al Rosen for sixth place on the Indians' all-time list. Thome's homer traveled 420 feet and crashed into the warehouse on one high bounce, the 23rd ball to land on Eutaw Street in Camden Yards history and the fourth this season.

On the positive side of the Orioles' ledger, Jeff Conine went 2-for-5 with four RBIs. He singled in two runs in the first inning, produced another in the third with a groundout and another in the fourth with a double to left. He's batting .388 with 25 RBIs in 21 games since replacing the injured first baseman Will Clark.

Ryan settled down to strike out the side in the sixth. Albert Belle doubled in a run and collected his 16th outfield assist, matching his career high set in 1993 and tying Kansas City's Jermaine Dye for the AL lead.

None of it could prevent the Orioles from dropping to 61-75, though they avoided last place because Tampa Bay also lost.

The Orioles hurried former Cy Young winner Dwight Gooden from the game in the fourth inning, reaching him for seven runs and eight hits. Gooden hasn't won since July 28, a drought created in part by an August trip to the disabled list with a strained right shoulder.

He was straining yesterday just to survive. The Orioles scored twice in the first inning, with Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick opening with singles and Conine driving them both in after a double-steal.

But Ponson's erratic control would cost him the lead in the second, when the Indians pushed across two runs, and ultimately remove him from the game.

"Of course walks hurt me," said Ponson, who has allowed 20 earned runs in three losses to the Indians this season. "It happens with a good-hitting team like this. You can't give them any free passes. With a great-hitting team you have to make your pitches and I didn't do it."

The win went to right-hander James Brower, who was making his major-league debut. Brower allowed two hits over 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

"It's a thrill," Brower said. "I thought I was wasting my time warming up; it just happened with the rain and the situation, I got a chance to pitch."

He was given more room to operate in the eighth when Richie Sexson lashed a three-run double to left off Fetters, who was making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list.

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