O's fall into early hole, stumble to 8th straight loss

A's reach Ponson for 4 runs in first, cruise to 6-2 victory

August 25, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Apparently, it's that time of year again for the Orioles.

Losing streak time.

The time of year when several months' worth of progress gets swallowed whole by a streak so horrendous, the team wonders how it ever came to this.

Last night, for the first time in months, the Orioles looked like a team consumed by its failures. The Oakland Athletics scored four first-inning runs against Sidney Ponson and cruised behind Mark Mulder to a 6-2 victory at Network Associates Coliseum.

That made it eight straight losses for the Orioles, dropping them 10 games under .500, at 57-67, and into fourth place in the American League East, percentage points behind the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

In each of the past six seasons, the Orioles have had at least one losing skid of nine games or more, and they could extend that streak of ugly streaks tonight in Oakland.

Ponson (8-13) had won his first five decisions after the All-Star break, so the Orioles had that faint glimmer of hope his roll would continue last night.

But after getting doused in the first inning, when right fielder Jay Gibbons made a costly error and Jermaine Dye hit a two-run homer, Ponson spent the rest of his night doing damage control.

Ponson finished six innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits, raising his ERA to 5.62.

Mulder (17-4) became the major leagues' first 17-game winner, holding the Orioles to two runs on four hits in six innings.

The Orioles had plenty of chances, but they went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight runners on base.

Throughout this streak, each loss has produced new levels of futility, and last night there were several examples.

During Oakland's four-run first inning, the Orioles had a moment straight out of the Little League World Series.

The A's had runners at the corners with one out, when Erubiel Durazo lined a single to right field - the third of four hits allowed in the inning by Ponson.

Mark Kotsay scored from third, and right fielder Jay Gibbons made a strong throw back to the infield. Only problem was, it was off target by several feet.

Miguel Tejada lunged for the ball near second base, but the throw sailed past him and bounced through the infield grass. With a late reaction, third baseman Melvin Mora tried getting to it, but couldn't, and the ball kept rolling all the way into the A's dugout.

By the time the umpires finished awarding the runners extra bases, the A's had a 2-0 lead with Durazo standing on third.

It was a pivotal moment for Ponson.

The Orioles were already in big trouble, but instead of stopping the bleeding, he quickly made it worse, hanging an 0-2 breaking pitch to Dye, who drilled it into the left-field seats for a two-run homer.

So even on a night when Mulder looked vulnerable, the Orioles couldn't capitalize.

They put runners on second and third with no outs in the second inning, but only scored one run, as Mulder picked apart the hapless bottom of their order.

Darnell McDonald hit an RBI groundout, and Rafael Palmeiro advanced to third base. But Gibbons (batting .205 entering the game) waved at a curveball for a big strikeout, and Robert Machado (.172) grounded to shortstop, ending the inning.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site: Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.

Time: 10:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Bruce Chen (first 2004 start) vs. A's Rich Harden (8-5, 4.01)

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