Ashby has hang of it vs. O's, 4-1

New Brave reprises 6-day-old effort as Phillie in 7-hit win

Orioles' quick lead fades

C. Jones, Galarraga slug HRs off Ponson

July 15, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Same league, different uniform, same old result. The Orioles happened upon Andy Ashby for the second time in a week last night and once again he held open the door to an early lead that became a 4-1 loss, this time to the Atlanta Braves before 47,715 at Camden Yards.

Ashby may have switched allegiance from the Philadelphia Phillies to the defending National League champions, but the angular right-hander's act against the Orioles remained predictable.

After struggling through a dangerous first inning in a contest that started a half-hour late because of rain, Ashby (5-7) contained the Orioles with a seven-hit complete game, ensuring that Sidney Ponson (5-5) would only receive a loss for his impressive show of resiliency.

It's not that it's only Ashby pitching against the Orioles. It just seems that way. Three of his last five starts have come against them in interleague play. To the Orioles, the whole thing has gotten old.

Helped by an Orioles offense that didn't know when to stop running and a new defense that saved him several outs with outfield assists and sprawling stops, Ashby gave a strong follow-up to last Saturday's 13-4 win over the Orioles in his last start with the NL East also-rans.

Chipper Jones and Andres Galarraga homered for the Braves to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Ponson pitched with little room for error and barely exceeded his allotment.

Ponson's previous start had been a nightmare. Given a 7-0 lead against the New York Yankees July 6, he collapsed during an eight-run second inning.

After the game, manager Mike Hargrove disciplined him and two teammates for leaving the team without permission to attend a Metallica concert in Baltimore.

First baseman Will Clark also bluntly questioned the 23-year-old's focus. Still miffed at coverage of the incident, Ponson chose not to speak after the game.

This time, his performance spoke well for him.

Ponson appeared to pitch with purpose before arm stiffness forced him from the game after seven innings.

"I was curious to see how Sidney would respond and come out today," Hargrove said. "The way he came out said a lot of things about Sidney. He threw the ball very well.

"He's got to show me that more often," said Clark. "But for Sidney to bounce back like that, I thought was a big feather in his cap. He's got to take that same composure, that same focus into his next start."

Ponson has consistently given the Orioles innings this season and the Orioles have sometimes given him runs by the gross. They have averaged 9.4 runs in his wins, but last night did nothing to rally against Ashby.

"I thought Sid threw the ball well enough to win. If we had scored some runs tonight, we would have won the game," said Hargrove.

A chance to break open the game in the first inning evaporated because of reckless baserunning as the threat ended with three consecutive singles, two that brought outs.

Brady Anderson walked as the first hitter to face Ashby in a Braves uniform. With one out, Delino DeShields beat out an in-field single and zaniness quickly followed.

Albert Belle singled to left and, before the play was over, the Braves had thrown to three bases, missing Anderson at the plate, catching De-Shields at third and barely missing Belle for a double play as he went in standing at second.

B.J. Surhoff became the fourth of the Orioles' first five hitters to reach when he singled almost to the identical spot as Belle.

Left-fielder Reggie Sanders' throw at Anderson was weak, giving third-base coach Sam Perlozzo no reason to hesitate with Belle.

However, this time Sanders made a quicker, more accurate throw and Belle was out easily to end the inning. The double calamity left the Orioles with three outs on the bases in four innings dating to the night before.

"We hit the ball. We were aggressive. Sanders made a great throw to get Albert at the plate. But it was good, aggressive baserunning. I've got no complaints about it," said Hargrove.

"It did kind of fall apart. You're not going to score runs by going out there base to base. You have to be aggressive about it. You have to be smart about it. You've got to put the ball in play with runners in scoring position, which we didn't do the rest of the game. We came up with one run. We could have come up with no runs."

"The defense is what won the game," said Ashby. "The guys really played good behind me and then the offense came out and put the runs we needed on the board. I was able to get in a groove and stay out of the big innings."

In some ways, the Orioles are a .500 team. Last night's brief lead left them 27-27 after scoring first. The Orioles have scored first in 61.3 percent of their games, yet find themselves with their league's third-worst record.

"You can score first, but it really comes down to who scores most," Hargrove said. "You want to score first to get ahead, but once you do so you've got to back that up. In those games we lost, I'd bet we didn't mark very often after that."

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