With Ponson on display, O's show up, too

Mariners, eyeing market for pitcher, dealt 6-5 loss

Bordick: 3-for-3, three-run HR

4 relievers pick up starter, toss 2 1/3 scoreles innings

July 16, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

With the non-waiver trade deadline little more than two weeks away, the Seattle Mariners got a firsthand look last night at one of their potential targets: Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson.

Former Orioles general manager Pat Gillick, who now steers the Mariners' ship, had a seat right behind the Seattle dugout. A few innings into the game, Ponson's agent, Barry Praver, sat down two seats away from Gillick.

The question of whether to trade Ponson, Scott Erickson or another starting pitcher continues to linger for the Orioles, but things are going so well on the field, there's a growing movement not to tinker with something that isn't broken.

On a night Ponson was gritty if not spectacular, the pesky Orioles scrapped their way to another impressive victory, using a three-run homer from Mike Bordick to defeat the Mariners, 6-5, before 38,411 at Camden Yards.

Bordick, who went 3-for-3 with two runs scored, left the game after the seventh inning with a contusion of the right knee. He had X-rays taken, which showed no damage, but Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said Bordick is doubtful for today's game.

"Mike's done nothing but get stronger every day since spring training," Hargrove said of Bordick, who underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder in August but now has a 73-game errorless streak. "I'm not exaggerating when I say I don't know where we'd be without him."

The Orioles evened their season series with the Mariners at four games apiece, with the finale coming this afternoon, as Erickson takes the mound opposite Mariners starter Joel Pineiro.

Erickson has a 13-start winless streak, and after last night's game he asked his good friend Ponson what it felt like to win. Ponson (4-4) had gone eight starts without a win, stretching back to May 23, but he got one this time despite giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings.

B.J. Ryan, Willis Roberts, Buddy Groom and Jorge Julio combined to pitch 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, with Julio earning his 19th save.

"I never wanted to leave," Ponson said. "I love Baltimore. I love the fans. It's one of those things, I don't want to go, but I know it's a business. If the Orioles get a proposal that they cannot refuse, they have the choice to take it or leave it, and the only thing I can do is keep going out there and keep pitching good, and hopefully they won't think about trading me."

Last week, Gillick told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "We would like to come up with one more starting pitcher. We'd like to match up better in the postseason."

The Mariners know it takes four frontline starting pitchers to compete in the playoffs with the likes of the New York Yankees. Right now the Mariners have Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer and Pineiro, but there's a drop-off to No. 4 starter James Baldwin.

Ponson, 25, would be a perfect fit in terms of his age and contract status. He is making $2.65 million this season and isn't eligible for free agency until after next season. Praver already has one client on the Mariners, outfielder Charles Gipson.

"Pat's been a friend of mine for a long time," Praver said of his discussion with Gillick, which seemed so chummy at one point. Each ordered a lemonade from a passing vendor. "We were just talking about baseball in general."

The Orioles know all about Ponson's potential and seem reluctant to move him, Erickson or anyone unless they are absolutely overwhelmed.

Ponson, whose previous two starts were limited because of a blister on his right middle finger, fell behind 4-0 in the third inning, as Mark McLemore and Edgar Martinez each homered.

But the Orioles chased Mariners starter Ryan Franklin after 3 1/3 innings, pounding him for six runs, five earned.

Bordick doubled in the third inning and made a terrific base-running decision, taking third on a sacrifice fly to left field by Melvin Mora. That was a critical play because it allowed Bordick to score when Chris Singleton hit a sacrifice fly to center field.

The Orioles added one last run on another hustle play, as Gary Matthews hit a sharp grounder to first, which John Olerud couldn't handle for his third error of the season. Matthews raced to first, beating the toss from Olerud to Franklin, and Hairston sped around third with his team's third run.

With the momentum building, Ponson retired the side in the fourth inning, and the Orioles went right back to work against Franklin. With runners on second and third, Bordick went to the plate, knowing a fly ball would tie the score, and when Franklin threw a 3-1 fastball up and in, Bordick drilled it into the left-field seats, 389 feet, for his fourth homer of the season.

Orioles today

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site:Camden Yards

Time:12:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM) Starters:Mariners' Joel Pineiro (10-3, 2.50) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (3-9, 4.30)

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