Yankees batter O's, 18-5

Ponson allows 8 in fifth as N.Y. completes sweep

Losing streak reaches seven

Yanks outscore O's, 41-17, in three-game series

May 28, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The lump in Lee Mazzilli's throat last night didn't come from being sentimental in his third game managing against the New York Yankees. This series was just too much for one man to swallow.

Trying to make a statement about their legitimacy as contenders, the Orioles were reminded how far they have to go, and how unabashed the Yankees are when it comes to flaunting their superiority -- even against their former first base coach.

Subdued for four innings, the Yankees burst for eight runs in the fifth while chasing Sidney Ponson, batted around twice, and completed their sweep with an 18-5 victory at Camden Yards that left their opponent bruised and embarrassed.

A crowd of 46,282 included Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller and his girlfriend, actress Tara Reid -- welcome distractions for fans who otherwise had to focus on the Orioles' seven-game losing streak. They lined up for autographs and snapped photos, anything to ignore what transpired on the field.

Alex Rodriguez hit a two-run homer off Ponson in the fifth to break a 3-3 tie. It followed a two-run double by Derek Jeter, whose average jumped from .189 to .211 in the past two games.

Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro hit back-to-back homers in the third inning to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead against Jose Contreras, but the Yankees outscored them, 41-17, in the series and improved to 42-17 against them since 2001.

The 41 runs were the most allowed by the Orioles in a three-game home series. Tony Clark's sacrifice fly in the ninth clinched the distinction.

"You've got to grind it out," said Mazzilli, whose club allowed 51 hits in the series. "This is a tough time, and we're going to play some good teams. We're going to see what we're made of."

If a pitcher was going to be assigned the task of ending a lengthy skid, one that further exposed weaknesses in the rotation and bullpen, it had to be the anointed staff ace. Cue Ponson (3-5), who went the distance in his two previous starts.

He couldn't make it out of the fifth, when the Yankees collected six singles, two doubles and Rodriguez's opposite-field homer. Ponson hung his head as Rodriguez circled the bases. His glance was aimed in the same direction the Orioles have gone since moving four games above .500 on May 19.

A two-run double by Hideki Matsui brought Mazzilli from the dugout. Ponson snatched the cap from his head as he neared the first-base line.

"I didn't make good pitches, and I got hit," said Ponson, whose ERA increased to 6.09. "I don't make excuses. I got my [butt] beat pretty good."

An eighth run was charged to Ponson when Bernie Williams singled off Mike DeJean. Twelve batters came to the plate, one more than the seventh-inning uprising that brought six more runs against DeJean and rookie Denny Bautista.

Bautista's ERA rose to 36.00 in two outings, and the Orioles optioned him to Double-A Bowie after the game and recalled Triple-A reliever Eddy Rodriguez.

"We put him in a tough spot," Mazzilli said, "and we just didn't feel like he was ready right now to compete."

On the surface, the Orioles appeared to catch a break when Yankees pitcher Kevin Brown (5-1) left the team for personal reasons, pushing back his start from last night to tomorrow.

But Contreras threw eight scoreless innings against the Orioles in Cuba before defecting and signing with the Yankees. He hadn't allowed a run to the Orioles in nine major league innings.

That streak looked like it would end in the first inning last night when Brian Roberts singled and Melvin Mora walked. But the Orioles continued a recent tendency to waste prime scoring opportunities, beginning with a disputed third strike on Tejada that had him barking at plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.

The first chunk had fallen from the rally, and soon there was nothing but rubble. Palmeiro popped up a 1-0 pitch, and Javy Lopez struck out.

Tejada exacted his revenge in the third, driving a 94-mph fastball into the left-field seats to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Palmeiro connected four pitches later to interrupt an 11-for-60 slump.

The rest of the night went against the Orioles. "This is just a bump in the road that you have to overcome," Mazzilli said. "There's nothing you can do other than go on from here."

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