Ponson falls in hurry

Indians score five runs before 2nd out as pitcher lasts only 1 1/3 in 9-4 loss

He blames location, not elbow

O's 9th loss in 11 games sets up a tough stretch before the All-Star break

July 04, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The official halfway point of the baseball season arrived yesterday at Camden Yards and another golden opportunity for the Orioles was lost.

The home team took the field knowing first-place Boston had been beaten, but an inning later, the out-of-town scoreboard served only as a cruel backdrop to Sidney Pon- son's brisk walk off the mound amid a chorus of boos.

Hammered for six hits and six earned runs, Ponson managed to get just four outs, leaving the Orioles' eventual 9-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians before 41,655 with an inflamed ERA and questions about his health.

Ponson, who fell to 7-6, his ERA expanding to 5.80, equaled the shortest outing of his season. He was touched for five runs, with Ben Broussard's three-run home run being the biggest blow, before the game's second out.

"He couldn't get anyone out," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said succinctly.

Ponson shot down rumors that circulated in the clubhouse about pain in his pitching elbow; rather, he said he simply wasn't making good pitches.

"I felt OK," said Ponson, slightly annoyed that his health was being questioned. "I just couldn't throw strikes. Basically, I just got hit tonight. You put the ball right down the middle and you are going to get hit. I am healthy. If I am not healthy, I would be on the DL."

The Aruban right-hander has won just two of his past 10 starts and now has given up more hits (136) than any pitcher in the American League. In 12 career games against Cleveland, he is 0-7 with a 9.47 ERA.

"He's fine," said Mazzilli. "Just like any other player, he's got aches and pains, but nothing that can stop him. He's a guy that goes out and always gives you innings all the time and keeps you in the game. Today, it wasn't his game."

His performance was especially bothersome to the Orioles yesterday, considering all that was at stake. The Orioles (44-37) needed a win to salvage a four-game split with the Indians (44-36), a team now ahead of them in the wild-card standings.

Instead, the Orioles, losers of nine of their past 11 games, will start a treacherous stretch run toward the All-Star break 2 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East.

They traveled to New York by train for a two-game series with the Yankees. Then, they'll return home for four games against the Red Sox.

"Obviously at this point, we are frustrated as a team," said second baseman Brian Roberts.

The afternoon started with Mazzilli gathering his team for a pre-game pep talk, which included recognizing the team's newly minted All-Stars. Roberts and shortstop Miguel Tejada were named starters on the American League squad.

Third baseman Melvin Mora, who went 1-for-4 yesterday in his return to the lineup after missing 10 games with a strained right hamstring and most importantly, said he felt fine afterward, and closer B.J. Ryan were also selected for the team.

But all the nice sentiment was gone about five minutes after Ponson threw the game's first pitch. Ponson caught Grady Sizemore, the game's first hitter, looking at a called third strike, on a 92-mph fastball. Then, Coco Crisp blooped a single, Travis Hafner walked and Victor Martinez and Ronnie Belliard followed with RBI singles.

Broussard then deposited Ponson's 90-mph fastball 397 feet away in the Orioles' bullpen to make it 5-0.

"It seems like everything he threw was over the plate," said Mazzilli. "I think the homer really hurt, changed things really quick. It puts you down five right away."

Said Ponson: "I just put the guys into too big of a hole."

The Orioles, getting 4 2/3 innings of long relief by James Baldwin, who gave up one run, tried to crawl out. Luis Matos hit a bases-empty home run off Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee, his second homer of the season and his first since Opening Day. The Orioles center fielder finished 3-for-4.

Later in the third inning, Roberts, who also had a two-run double, hit his 14th homer, cutting Cleveland's lead to 6-2.

However, Hafner ended any Orioles' comeback hopes as he hit a towering two-run shot to right field off Steve Kline in the seventh inning. The boos, which showered Ponson about an hour earlier, shifted to Kline.

Lee, pitching against an Orioles lineup that again didn't include slumping outfielder Sammy Sosa, got the win, improving to 9-3. He is now 7-1 with a 3.44 ERA in 11 road starts this season.

Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro was hitless for the third straight game and remained eight hits shy of 3,000.

"We're struggling right now," said Matos. "We just need to put it all together, the pitching, the hitting. Then we'll get back to the way we were playing earlier this year."

Palmeiro's quest for 3,000 hits


Yesterday: 0-for-4 vs. the Indians

Today: 1:05 p.m., vs. Yankees (Sturtze 2-1)

Orioles today

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site, time: Yankee Stadium, New York, 1:05 p.m.

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

Starters: Orioles' Bruce Chen (6-5, 3.54) vs. Yankees' Tanyon Sturtze (2-1, 3.43)

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.