CHICAGO - The Orioles watched franchise shortstop Miguel Tejada limp off the field last night in the first inning, and by then, that wasn't their only serious concern.
Sidney Ponson had already given up three runs in what would become another unsightly performance for the team's $22.5 million ace.
The Chicago White Sox pounded Ponson for seven runs in six innings, and then piled on against Rick Bauer and John Parrish to break the Orioles" three-game winning streak with a 15-0 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
Tejada left the game with a strained muscle on the front of his right shin, an injury that could jeopardize his streak of 623 consecutive games played - the longest active streak in the majors.
After the game, Tejada said the pain had mostly subsided in the trainer's room.
"I'm going to play [tonight]," Tejada said. "I can walk good. I don't feel any pain."
Tejada had a similar injury in spring training and returned two days later. Today, he will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam, just to be sure there's no structural damage.
Without Tejada, who hit two home runs in Sunday's victory over Cleveland, the Orioles couldn't mount a comeback against White Sox starter Mark Buehrle.
In fact, Buehrle (2-1) didn't let them mount anything, allowing four hits in seven innings.
By the end, it matched the second-worst shutout loss in Orioles' history. They also lost 15-0 against the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 30, 2001. They lost 16-0 to the New York Yankees on April 30, 1960.
"It seemed like we were just blah," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "I don't know what it was. Get down early, and this team's usually not like that. With Tejada coming out right there, I don't know if it set a tone, but it should not, put it that way."
Ponson (2-3) allowed 11 hits and two walks, as his ERA swelled to 6.80. Later he said he couldn't recall a worse stretch in his big league career.
"He's your No. 1," Mazzilli said. "You've got to hope he fights his way out of it." Magglio Ordonez paced a 19-hit White Sox attack with four hits and five RBIs.
This one got ugly quickly, and it wasn't long before the Orioles saw it for the nightmare it was.
The White Sox had just taken a 3-0 lead on a two-run single by Ross Gload when Tejada left the game. The whole thing seemed innocent enough. Tejada took the throw from left fielder Larry Bigbie, out near second base, and turned back to the infield.
Tejada didn't appear to twist anything on the television replays, but moments later, he was doubled over in pain.
Orioles trainer Richie Bancells and manager Lee Mazzilli went out for a look, and Tejada limped off with one arm draped around Bancells and the other draped around bench coach Sam Perlozzo.
Tejada, who signed a six-year, $72 million contract in December, gave the Orioles a similar scare during spring training. On March 11, he limped off the field against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., after straining a muscle in his lower right leg. He was back in the lineup two days later.
The pain hadn't bothered him since, Tejada said. "It just comes one day," he said, "and goes away."
So the Orioles could hope to have Tejada back to his old form soon. With Ponson, they're not so sure.
He set the tone for another subpar performance against the first batter he faced. After throwing two strikes to White Sox leadoff man Willie Harris, Ponson walked him with four consecutive balls.
The first four Chicago hitters reached base, as Jose Valentin dropped a perfect bunt single down the third base line, Ordonez hit a run-scoring double, and Frank Thomas walked, loading the bases.
Ponson got the first out, when Carlos Lee grounded to third baseman Melvin Mora, who fired home for the first out, but Gload delivered his opposite-field single to left before Ponson retired the final two batters.
"I'm really [ticked] off," Ponson said. "I didn't think I pitched that bad. I asked Javy [Lopez, the catcher] and he said of the 11 hits I gave up, I only made about three bad pitches. I've just got to keep working hard. I'm not in a panic mode yet."
The White Sox got another run in the second, as Ordonez hit a ball that seemed to paint the left-field line again for a two- out, run-scoring double.
Ponson has always had trouble with Ordonez, who is now batting .483 (14-for-29) for his career against the right-hander.
Ordonez struck again in the fourth. Harris, the former Oriole who finished with a career-high four hits, drilled a ground-rule double to start the inning on a ball that right fielder Jay Gibbons might have grabbed had he not taken a bad route.
Ordonez then stroked a line single to left-center field, making it 5-0.
Valentin added a two-run homer in the sixth inning, and Ponson left with the White Sox leading 7-0.
Then, the bottom fell out for the Orioles, as Chicago scored eight runs in the seventh inning. Seven of those runs were charged to Bauer, who allowed seven of the eight batters he faced to reach base.
Parrish came on with two men aboard, and surrendered a 400-foot, three-run homer to Thomas.
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (major league debut) vs. White Sox's Jon Garland (2-1, 4.43)
Since his 88-pitch complete game April 20 against Tampa Bay, Sidney Ponson has struggled in his next four starts:
Date Opp IP H ER Res
4/25 Tor 5 1/3 10 7 L, 15-3
4/30 Cle 3 2/3 9 6 L, 11-2
5/5 Chi 6 8 4 ND
5/11 Chi 6 11 7 L, 15-0