Orioles power past Royals

Ponson gets first win since last June, silences K.C. in 9-4 victory

Batista: two HRs, five RBIs

Orioles get sixth win in past eight games, take sole possession of third

April 28, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - On June 28, when Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson last won a game, Steven Spielberg was about to release his new movie, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence."

The big news of the day was a federal court's ruling in favor of the Microsoft Corp., and Orioles outfielder Brady Anderson was returning to Baltimore to have his shoulder examined.

Needless to say, it had been a while. Ponson went 14 starts and nearly 10 months without a win, but it finally happened last night.

Tony Batista matched career highs with two home runs and five RBIs, and Ponson pitched seven solid innings, as the Orioles defeated the Kansas City Royals, 9-4, at Kauffman Stadium.

The victory was the Orioles' sixth in eight games and moved them into sole possession of third place in the American League East for the first time since July 4. They were tied for third place on April 3, but spent three weeks in last place before getting out of the cellar Friday night.

Ponson (1-2) held the Royals to three runs, two earned, on seven hits.

His last victory was a two-hit shutout over the Toronto Blue Jays. After that, he went 10 starts last season without a victory, missing the final five weeks with tendinitis in his right forearm.

"It's hard for anybody to go 10-plus starts without a win." Ponson said. "Like I said, it's part of baseball. It's been happening for 100 years. It's part of the game. You just have to keep your head up and go out there. I'm the type of pitcher who's going to lose some games. I attack the strike zone and get hit, and that's part of baseball."

This was his fifth start of the new season, and he had pitched well enough to win two of those, but didn't get the run support. A week ago he pitched 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 loss at Tampa Bay.

This time he squandered an early three-run lead but did his best pitching after the Orioles went back in front.

With the score tied 3-3 in the fifth inning, Orioles leadoff man Melvin Mora ended a 1-for-20 slump with the go-ahead home run. The next half inning, Ponson retired the side, striking out Michael Tucker and Carlos Beltran, and getting Mike Sweeney to fly to center.

Marty Cordova's run-scoring single put the Orioles ahead 5-3 in the sixth, and once again Ponson retired the side. He struck out Raul Ibanez and Joe Randa, then got Neifi Perez to ground to second base.

Four of Ponson's six strikeouts came during that critical two-inning stretch.

The Royals threatened with two outs in the seventh, as Donnie Sadler tripled and Tucker drew a five-pitch walk. A passed ball by catcher Geron imo Gil moved the tying runs to second and third.

Ponson ran the count full against Beltran, then threw a nasty 87-mph changeup, which Beltran bounced to second for the final out.

"Sidney battling and getting out of the seventh really turned the tide for us." said manager Mike Hargrove. "I think it was a big pitch for Sidney, too."

After that the Orioles pulled away, as Batista and Gil each hit two-run homers. Batista, who had four RBIs in Friday's victory, now has a team-leading 23 RBIs for the season. It was his ninth career two-home run game, and he now has six homers for the season.

He also doubled and scored in the sixth inning, finishing 3-for-4 to raise his average to .273.

"It's coming back." said Batista, when asked if this is the best he's swung the bat since his best days in Toronto. "I think the swing is right there. I'm seeing the ball better. They threw me a lot of breaking balls. I let them go and waited for the fastball."

Paul Byrd (4-1) missed his chance to become the AL's first five-game winner, as the Orioles scored five runs off him in seven innings.

After scoring a season-high four first-inning runs Friday, the Orioles scored three in the first inning this time as Byrd had a surprising control lapse. He came into the game having not walked or hit a batter in his first four starts, all wins.

But he walked Mora to start the game, erased him with a double play, then hit Jeff Conine and walked Jay Gibbons.

Batista made those mistakes costly, hitting a three-run homer to left field on ball that barely cleared the fence and appeared to be aided by the wind.

The Orioles scored all of their first seven runs with two outs.

Orioles today

Opponent:Kansas City Royals

Site:Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Time:2:05 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Scott Erickson (2-2, 4.60) vs. Royals' Bryan Rekar (0-1, 15.75)

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