Lost Ponson doesn't find way in Philly

5-2 defeat to Phillies gives him 9 in a row

12 losses in first half is O's record

`I'm running out of words to say'

O's hit into double plays in 7th, 8th to foil comeback

July 05, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - As old stories go, this one is reaching biblical proportions.

Sidney Ponson starts for the Orioles, trying to end a losing streak that has gotten so long, it has grown tentacles. He leaves the game with his team behind, and another defeat is attached to his record.

There's frustration, anger and acceptance, all rolled into one body. What else can he do except take the ball the next time it's handed to him? He figures better times must lie ahead. They can't get much worse.

Ponson lost his ninth consecutive outing yesterday, mishandling an early lead and succumbing to the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-2, before a Fourth of July crowd of 43,396 at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm praying to God that this turns around. It's been a long time, and it's frustrating," said Ponson, who hasn't won since May 16.

"I'm running out of words to say."

And so it goes.

Ponson's 12 losses in the first half are the most in club history, surpassing the 11 by Mike Boddicker, Dennis Martinez, Ross Grimsley and Dave McNally.

"I'm just going to keep going out there, keep working hard, keep throwing strikes," he said.

And keep hoping his luck changes.

David Utley hit a disputed two-run double in the second inning to move the Phillies ahead, and Bobby Abreu homered in the third, as the Orioles (34-44) dropped the last two games of the series to finish 4-3 on the road trip.

Abreau's homer, his 17th this season, came on a two-strike pitch. One more and Ponson (3-12) was out of the inning.

"I was trying to throw a sinker, and it didn't sink," he said. "It was one of the two bad pitches I threw all day."

The Orioles failed in their attempt to win back-to-back series for the first time since mid-April. They also couldn't cover for Ponson, who allowed five runs and nine hits over six innings to drop his ERA to 6.29.

Javy Lopez gave him a 1-0 lead in the second with his 11th home run, a shot to left field off Eric Milton (11-2) that landed in the last row of seats in the lower section. But a fly ball by Jim Thome in the second fell in front of left fielder Jerry Hairston to begin a two-run rally, and the Orioles hit into double plays in the seventh and eighth innings after putting the first two runners on base.

Hairston, again forced to start in left because of injuries and a roadblock at second base, was playing Thome to pull and couldn't reach the ball. Third baseman Luis Lopez, another substitute, raced to the outfield but also arrived late.

"That ball's got to be caught," manager Lee Mazzilli said.

"It's not Luis' ball, it's mine," Hairston said. "If I catch that ball, it may be a different story."

Said Ponson: "You can't do nothing about those. I'm supposed to throw strikes and get outs. Whatever happens behind me isn't my problem. They have to look in the mirror and see if they gave it all. Jerry came in hard and just couldn't get it."

Hairston later apologized to Ponson.

"Sidney, especially his last three starts, has done better than his fate," he said.

The outfield continues to present challenges for Hairston, who dropped a fly ball in left Friday that led to an unearned run. But with Larry Bigbie injured and Jay Gibbons and B.J. Surhoff on the disabled list, Mazzilli is patching holes. All that's missing is the spackle.

"We're putting guys all over the place to fill in," he said. "We're asking guys who are out of their positions to fill spots for us."

Utley gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead with a drive to center field that initially was ruled a home run by first base umpire Dave Aschwege. Replays showed the ball hit the top of the fence and popped into the air, and Luis Matos' glove, and the Orioles eventually won half of their argument.

Though Utley was sent back to second base, David Bell was allowed to score from first on the ground-rule double, again bringing Mazzilli from the dugout in protest.

Ponson joined him on the bench after the sixth. Abreu's two-run double the previous inning, after a mound visit from pitching coach Ray Miller, gave the Phillies a 5-2 lead, and the Orioles again didn't have any response in the clutch.

Brian Roberts bounced into a double play in the seventh that reliever Rheal Cormier started after Lopez and Tim Raines singled off Milton. And Rafael Palmeiro squelched a rally in the eighth after an error and infield hit by Javy Lopez.

"We had the right guys up, Raffy and our leadoff man," Mazzilli said. "You wouldn't expect your leadoff man to hit into a double play, because he can run. I think guys are just trying to do everything themselves when they have a lot of their guys down and out. They know that we're thin. They know the reality of where we're at right now."

Palmeiro went 0-for-4 to lower his average to .245, 46 points below his career mark.

"He's just trying to do too much right now," Mazzilli said. "He's putting everything on his shoulders. You try too hard, and it just compounds everything."

Now the Orioles return home for seven games, including a doubleheader today against the surging Tampa Bay Devil Rays, before the break. They went 5-13 in interleague play, worst in the American League.

And Ponson thinks he has problems.

"It might never go my way," he said. "It seems like it right now."

Orioles today

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site: Camden Yards

Game 1 time, TV, radio: 1:35 p.m., Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Game 2 time, TV, radio: 7:05 p.m., Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Pitching matchups, Page 6C

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