Ponson, O's strong-arm Royals, 6-2

Pitcher holds Kansas City to one run in 7 innings to even his mark at 2-2

Team stops two-game skid

Ponson: `We can take care of anybody in the AL'

Orioles hit 3 more

May 03, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles have entered the ring against some of the American League's heavyweights, taken a few lumps and proved they can take a punch. Last night, they were back in the ranks of the lightweights, looking like big bullies.

Opening a 16-game stretch against teams that entered the day with sub-.500 records, the Orioles received another solid performance from Sidney Ponson and defeated the Kansas City Royals, 6-2, before a paid crowd of 25,748 at Camden Yards.

David Segui, Tony Batista and Jeff Conine hit home runs off Royals starter Paul Byrd, as the Orioles stopped a two-game losing streak.

"I think we can take care of anybody in the American League," Ponson said, after winning his second start since June 28. "We just have to be consistent and keep going out there, and good things will happen."

The Orioles swept three games at Kansas City last weekend and were delighted to see the Royals back on the schedule after getting pounded, 15-3, Wednesday night at Boston. The Royals will be in town through Sunday, and by that point the Orioles (13-15) could be back over .500.

Beginning Monday, the Orioles begin a 12-game stretch against the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Orioles have already won 3 of 5 games against Tampa this season, and after starting the season 11-1, the Indians have two wins in their past 16 games.

Batista, for one, isn't getting overconfident.

"When we play a game like that, it looks easy," he said. "I think they're a pretty good team, and this is the major leagues. Tonight, every little thing, it comes perfect. All those ground balls, they hit hard to the shortstop, so they don't have a chance to score any runs."

The Royals (8-18) fired their manager after getting outscored by the Orioles, 32-9, last weekend, replacing Tony Muser with interim manager John Mizerock. Three games into his major-league managing career, Mizerock remains winless.

Ponson (2-2), who defeated these same Royals on Saturday night for his first victory in 15 starts, held them to one run on six hits over seven innings this time.

"I'm much happier tonight," Ponson said, comparing the two starts.

A year ago, Ponson went 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA against the Royals, underscoring a team-wide problem. The Orioles finished 35-40 against teams that finished last season with sub-.500 records.

This year, the Orioles are 7-2 in such games.

Ponson breezed through the first three innings, retiring all nine batters on just 28 pitches.

"Sidney threw the ball very, very well tonight," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "For a little while, I thought he might have a no-hitter in him."

Chuck Knoblauch broke up the no-hitter in the fourth, but Ponson quickly erased him when Raul Ibanez hit into a double play. Ponson basically cruised until the sixth inning, when Carlos Beltran put the Royals on the board with a run-scoring single.

The Orioles jumped on Byrd (4-2) with a home run in each of the first three innings. Segui hit his second of the season with two outs in the first inning, and Batista led off the second inning with his eighth home run, moving him one past Jay Gibbons for the team lead.

Those first two homers were bases-empty shots, but Conine's came in the third inning with Chris Singleton on second. Conine crushed a 3-1 slider from Byrd an estimated 435 feet to center field, with the ball carrying into the Royals' bullpen.

After that, Byrd settled down, retiring the next 14 batters, before the Orioles struck for two more runs in the eighth. Byrd won his first four starts this season, but the Orioles and Ponson have defeated him twice in the same week.

"Paul is kind of funky," Hargrove said of Byrd. "He's got that different delivery and throws from all angles and changes speeds, and Paul understands what he needs to do to get hitters out. We were just fortunate that those first three innings, he hung a couple pitches, and we got a hold of them."

Buddy Groom relieved Ponson and gave up his first run in 10 appearances this season, as Mike Sweeney doubled and Joe Randa scored him with a single. That trimmed the Orioles' lead to 4-2, but Rick Bauer came on and recorded the final four outs for his first major-league save.

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Kansas City Royals

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

TV/Radio:CSN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Royals' Jeremy Affeldt (1-0, 2.60) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (3-2, 3.57)

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