Fordyce hit lifts Orioles in 14th, 4-3

O's rise after tying in 9th

bullpen blanks Sox for 8

July 21, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The crowd that gathered for Sidney Ponson's start last night included the governor of Aruba, his native land, and its minister of sports. This guy really is being scouted heavily.

Joking about the high-ranking officials who followed Ponson, third base coach Tom Trebelhorn pointed at the Orioles' pitcher and said, "I thought you were the king of Aruba?"

As midnight passed, Brook Fordyce took a seat on Baltimore's throne.

Melvin Mora singled home pinch hitter Luis Lopez with the tying run in the ninth inning, and Fordyce lined a single to right field in the 14th to score Tony Batista and give the Orioles a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox before 39,257.

One of the biggest teases in baseball, the Orioles (47-48) again moved within a game of the elusive .500 mark. Ponson couldn't rise above it, settling for his 12th no-decision. Heavy is the head that wears the frown.

The Orioles left the bases loaded in the 12th, with Fordyce shattering his bat on a groundout with the count full against Rocky Biddle. They stranded two in the 13th when Gary Matthews struck out, but Batista began the 14th with a double off the left-field fence - barely missing a home run - and scored when Fordyce poked a 2-2 pitch to the opposite field after White Sox reliever Bobby Howry issued an intentional walk to Marty Cordova.

"When you have a game like that, obviously you battle," said Fordyce, who collected his fifth RBI this season after replacing starter Geronimo Gil.

"Fortunately, it was my turn to fall into a spot where I could help us win."

Fordyce's average rose to .218 after going 1-for-3. "Brook is a good player," said manager Mike Hargrove, whose bullpen turned in eight scoreless innings and offense had 17 hits. "Not having more at-bats than he does makes it tough but he made a huge adjustment against Howry."

Lopez, pinch-hitting for Jose Leon, lined a double into right field leading off the ninth. Jerry Hairston bunted him to third before Mora tied the game against Chicago closer Antonio Osuna.

The victory went to Rick Bauer (5-4), who relieved Yorkis Perez with two outs in the 12th after Ray Durham walked. Perez had replaced Jorge Julio, who struck out three in two innings and picked off Magglio Ordonez after a double in the 10th. They were among seven pitchers used by Hargrove, the same amount as the White Sox.

"These games are tough on you physically and mentally," Hargrove said. "We preach mental toughness with our people."

The Orioles broke a scoreless tie in the third inning on a run-scoring single by Batista and double by Howie Clark, who went 3-for-7 with his first major-league RBI. The White Sox pushed across the tying run in the sixth on three straight singles, the last by Ordonez, and went ahead, 3-2, when Sandy Alomar led off the seventh with a walk and scored on Royce Clayton's double.

Those were the only batters Ponson faced in the inning. He allowed 10 hits, tying his season high.

Changes were made to the Orioles' lineup before the first pitch. Jay Gibbons, relieved on Friday when told he didn't need a magnetic resonance imaging test on his right wrist, was a late scratch because of continued soreness. He had two RBI singles in the series opener, but was replaced last night by Leon.

Gibbons was sent up as a pinch hitter with two outs in the eighth and runners on the corners, after Cordova flied to the warning track in right, but he returned to the bench when the White Sox countered with left-hander Damaso Marte. Luis Matos, in his first major-league at-bat this season after March surgery on his wrist, struck out on a slider from Marte.

Gibbons has hit safely in 11 of his past 13 games, batting .370 with four homers despite his ongoing battle to regain the normal feeling in his wrist.

Dr. Thomas Graham of Union Memorial Hospital gave him a numbing shot to ease the pain rather than schedule an MRI after discovering that a suture from his August surgery was pressing on a nerve.

It's likely that Gibbons will require a cortisone shot this week, as the Orioles try to guess along on his availability. Each day brings more uncertainty about his status, and could accelerate the Orioles' interest in acquiring another hitter before the non-waiver trade deadline. They don't expect to contend this season, but they'd like to field nine healthy bodies.

Batista is the only Oriole to start all 95 games this season, giving him more in common with Cal Ripken than their position. With so many injuries striking the infield - David Segui, Jeff Conine and Mike Bordick are on the disabled list - it's become more difficult to rest him. The Orioles need his bat in the lineup, but continue to retain Leon on the roster as a potential backup.

Hargrove said he'd give Batista a night off "if I see him starting to drag or if he comes to me, but I haven't seen evidence of that yet. And I look for it a lot, me and the coaches."

The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the third. Matthews collected the second of his four hits, on a ball hit too sharply for Durham to backhand. He stole second and scored on Batista's single up the middle. Clark then slammed a double off the scoreboard in right field while continuing to warrant inclusion in each day's lineup.

Orioles today

Opponent:Chicago White Sox

Site:Camden Yards

Time:1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:White Sox's Dan Wright (6-8, 5.49) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (4-9, 4.07)

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