TORONTO - His pitcher had come too far and gone through too much to even be here for Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli to do anything else but let Sidney Ponson finish what he started.
Ponson retired the first 14 Blue Jays yesterday and didn't allow a hit until there was one out in the sixth inning, but there he was in the ninth inning, his shutout gone, his pitch count swelling into the 130s and his command of the strike zone diminishing.
"I wanted to see it," Mazzilli said. "I gave him every chance. He wasn't going any further than that last hitter."
Fortunately for Ponson, he got Russ Adams to line out to shortstop Miguel Tejada, ending a signature performance and giving the Orioles a 7-1 victory over Toronto before 20,566 at the Rogers Centre, and a satisfying three-game sweep of the Blue Jays.
"I am really happy that Maz stuck with me," said Ponson (3-1), who struck out seven and gave up five hits in beating the Blue Jays in a little more than two hours, 20 minutes. He threw 131 pitches, 78 for strikes, posting his first complete-game win since firing a two-hit shutout at Yankee Stadium last Sept. 4.
"If I go out there for the ninth, I might as well finish it. It's one of those things I worked hard for and I have a lot of pride in. I'm really proud of myself that I threw nine and gave the bullpen a rest."
The first-place Orioles (12-7) battered nemesis Roy Halladay (3-1), the 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner whom they hadn't beaten in 10 consecutive starts, for six runs and nine hits, including homers by Sammy Sosa and Melvin Mora.
Sosa added another homer in the ninth off Justin Speier, marking his first multi-homer game as an Oriole and the 67th of his career.
"We came in here and played pretty good," said Sosa, who added a single to go along with his third and fourth homers of the season and now needs only 22 home runs to reach 600. "Now, we go into Boston. I think this team is feeling pretty good."
Ponson didn't know until Friday if he'd be able to make his start, saying there was a "50-50 chance." His legal problems - a driving under the influence arrest in January and unresolved assault charges from a Christmas Day fight in his homeland of Aruba - complicated his ability to get permission to enter Canada.
He finally got word that he'd be granted a minister's permit, which a club official picked up in Buffalo, N.Y., on Friday afternoon and then delivered to Ponson in Baltimore later that day. He arrived at the Rogers Centre in the eighth inning of the series opener on Friday.
In the last 24 innings of the series, the Blue Jays, losers of five straight, scored only two runs as Ponson and Erik Bedard, who pitched seven shutout innings Saturday, dominated Toronto's lineup. The Orioles outscored their American League East rival 24-7 over the weekend.
"With all the stuff that went on, I think [Ponson] put a lot of pressure on himself to do a job like he did. He answered the call," Mazzilli said.
Relying largely on his changeup, Ponson, who brought a 10.43 ERA into the game and had given up 28 hits in his first 14 2/3 innings this season, struck out four of the first eight Blue Jays he faced and was carrying a perfect game with two outs in the fifth.
"Everything he threw was nasty," Mora said.
Said Ponson: "My changeup was working and I was able to keep their guys off balance. It was one of those days. I'll have two or three of those all season."
Ponson eventually lost some of his control, walking three straight batters - on only 14 pitches - before getting Adams to fly out to Sosa to end the fifth. His no-hit bid was ended with one out in the sixth when Orlando Hudson hit a single up the middle.
But by then, the Orioles had already knocked out Halladay, who had been 10-2 against them with a 2.31 ERA. Second baseman Brian Roberts set the tone in the first, drawing a leadoff walk, and he, along with Mora, who doubled, scored when Tejada singled, adding two more RBIs to raise his league-leading total to 22.
Mora touched Halladay for a bases-empty homer in the third, his fourth of the season, catcher Geronimo Gil had an RBI groundout in the fourth and then it was Sosa's turn. He hit a bases-empty homer in the fifth and then slammed a 421-foot shot to right field in the ninth.
It was quite the exclamation point to a dominating trip to Canada. As they packed their bags to head to Boston for a three-game series with the second-place Red Sox, the Orioles were overflowing with confidence.
Asked by a reporter about "how everybody conceded first and second in the division to Boston and New York," Roberts said, "Everybody but us."
"Right now, we are in first place," Tejada said. "We're not going to be afraid to play anybody."
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site, time: Fenway Park, Boston, 7:05
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Bruce Chen (1-1, 3.38) vs. Red Sox's David Wells (2-2, 3.51)