Indians pound Ponson, O's, 11-2

6 runs in first 2 innings set tone as road trip starts on a chilly note

J. Lopez takes seat with Segui

Ponson lasts just 3 2/3 , has no comment after game

May 01, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - Standing near the steps of the Orioles' dugout last night, a game slipping away from him early with little to be done about it, manager Lee Mazzilli wore the look of an uncomfortable man. Was it the cold, damp weather or the performance of his starting pitcher?

At least he could slip on a jacket to stay warm.

Slowing down the Cleveland Indians required a more complex solution, and the Orioles never found it.

The Indians scored six runs off Sidney Ponson in the first two innings, drilling hits to all parts of the field and re-enacting the beatings their playoff teams used to dispense, and they cruised to an 11-2 victory before 18,782 at Jacobs Field.

Fourteen batters came to the plate through the second inning and provided a quick lead for left-hander Cliff Lee (3-0), who was making his first career start against the Orioles. Ponson didn't survive the fourth, with Mazzilli removing him after consecutive two-out walks to Jody Gerut and Casey Blake.

Ponson was charged with six earned runs (seven total), the last scoring on backup catcher Keith Osik's second passed ball of the inning. Given a 1-0 lead in the first on Rafael Palmeiro's sacrifice fly, he didn't have the stuff to hold it.

"Every pitch he threw was over the plate," Mazzilli said. "He got the ball up and they were first-ball swinging. He just couldn't get the ball down."

After turning in his shortest outing since April 4, 2003, Ponson (2-2) dressed without speaking to reporters - an unusual gesture from him.

"I think that he thinks he should beat this team," pitching coach Mark Wiley said.

"Everything was falling back to the middle of the plate. Sidney didn't have his normal command. He was missing his spots, and they were very aggressive. He got under the ball a lot and it flattened out."

In his past two starts, both defeats, Ponson has allowed 13 earned runs and 19 hits over nine innings. Osik has caught him in both games.

"I don't think it's any time to panic," Osik said. "It just seemed like he was throwing the ball uphill. I have to do a better job of trying to get him down."

Ponson's ERA rose to 6.29 after allowing seven or more runs for the third time in four starts.

"I don't know what kind of concern I'd have," Mazzilli said. "He's still my No. 1 pitcher."

For his latest trick, Mazzilli is attempting to hold a team in second place while juggling his lineup. And he's working without a net.

The heart of Mazzilli's order skipped a beat last night. He didn't have No. 5 hitter Javy Lopez for the only time this season because of a strained right oblique muscle, providing Osik with a rare start behind the plate. Luis Matos moved up to fifth in the order so Mazzilli could separate left-handers Palmeiro and Jay Gibbons, and he homered in the eighth off reliever Scott Stewart.

"The kid hit third last year, too," Mazzilli said. "If he can hit third, he can hit fifth."

Outfielder Darnell McDonald, called up from Triple-A Ottawa with David Segui going on the disabled list, made his first major league start and collected a single in the fourth inning. He was given the ball - the only worthy keepsake from an otherwise forgettable night for the club.

"We're banged up a little bit, but you've got to deal with it," Mazzilli said. "It's not something you can be overly concerned about because, like the old saying, you can't dwell on what you don't have. You just concentrate on what you have and go from there."

Rain fell for most of the day, continuing after the grounds crew removed the tarp and a marching band performed the anthem in front of a smattering of fans. The sky went from gray to black, matching the mood of a franchise that no longer sells out its ballpark or puts a winning team on the field.

But the Orioles never feel comfortable at Jacobs Field, where they've gone 13-33 since it opened in 1994 and have lost 16 of their past 19. This isn't a house of horrors, it's a village.

The torment started in the first inning when the Indians loaded the bases with none out on three straight hits, the last a sharp grounder by Jody Gerut that struck third base and popped straight into the air. After Casey Blake hit into a force at home, Travis Hafner lined a two-run double off the right-field fence.

Victor Martinez grounded to first, scoring Blake, and Ron Belliard delivered an RBI single to center for a 4-1 lead.

Signed as a free agent in December, Belliard began the night leading the American League with a .425 average, 18 points ahead of Minnesota's Lew Ford.

A two-run double by Omar Vizquel in the second inning moved the Indians further ahead, and Lee kept their bullpen from stirring until Stewart entered in the eighth with the Orioles behind 11-1. Cleveland relievers rank last in the league with a 7.53 ERA. The less they move, the better.

Rick Bauer allowed two runs and left-hander John Parrish allowed two more as the Indians refused to let up.

Referred to by former player Milton Bradley as a sinking ship after his release this spring, they never took on water last night beyond the precipitation.

"There was nothing there for us," Mazzilli said. "It wasn't a well-played game by us."

Orioles today

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland

Time: 1:05 p.m.

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

Starters: Orioles' Erik Bedard (0-0, 6.75) vs. Indians' C.C. Sabathia (1-0, 1.71)

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