O's can't hide as Angels win, 10-1

Seeking to escape the spotlight, Orioles instead drop 7th in row


ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Orioles might be running out of solutions to a losing streak that reached seven games last night. About all they can identify is ways it could get worse.

Try removing a hitter from the heart of the order. Burden the team with an embarrassing controversy that's drawing national attention, putting the spotlight where it's most unwanted. The Orioles would rather stay in the dark than have more problems illuminated for all to see.

The Anaheim Angels hit three home runs off Sidney Ponson, two of them by Vladimir Guerrero, and the Orioles marked the second day of Rafael Palmeiro's suspension with a 10-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels before a sellout crowd at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

While Palmeiro continued to serve his 10-day suspension for violating Major League Baseball's steroid policy, the Orioles ( 51-55) were beaten for the 15th time in 17 games. They are 4-15 since the All-Star break, their last win coming July 26 , and have fallen 9M-= games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

It's unnerving to imagine that rock bottom might be a little further down.

Ponson keeps reaching for it. He allowed eight runs in 5M-- innings, leaving him with one win in his past 11 starts and inflating his ERA to 6.12.

With a spot open on their roster, the Orioles purchased Midre Cummings" contract from Triple-A Ottawa. Cummings was batting .280 with 12 homers after missing two months with a broken right ring finger suffered in spring training.

Cummings gave the Orioles a left-handed bat on the bench and an extra outfielder, while B.J. Surhoff started at first base. They didn't bother to bring up a player to take Palmeiro's position. No sense trying to replace someone whose shoes can't be filled.

"He's our cleanup hitter and pretty much the only one hitting in the clutch right now." Jay Gibbons said. "[The suspension] isn't going to help."

The Orioles had to put aside a major distraction, no matter how difficult, and focus on their road trip. Ponson had to put aside his hurt feelings.

Ponson, who surrendered back-to-back homers to Guerrero and Garret Anderson in the third that gave the Angels a 4-0 lead, doesn't exactly feel wanted after the Orioles agreed to deal him to the San Diego Padres before Phil Nevin invoked his no- trade clause.

Shortly before this happened, he confronted a team official and yelled, "If you don't want me, then trade me." The Orioles tried, but didn't find many takers for a starter with a 5.80 ERA heading into last night and no wins since June 18.

He also vented at pitching coach Ray Miller before Sunday night's game, an incident that Miller dismissed as a simple misunderstanding. He still won't talk to the media, vowing to remain silent through the rest of the season. At least he isn't yelling.

There's enough drama surrounding this team without the squabbling.

Eric Byrnes, who had two hits, represented the only non-waiver trade on a team that must believe it's still a contender, no matter how much the standings and the losses contradict it.

"We have to." said reliever Steve Kline, who replaced Ponson. "That's what we play for."

One veteran looked around the clubhouse recently and said, 'We"re done. You know it and I know it."

Ponson ( 7-10) has lost six straight decisions, and he took the mound last night with a tender right thumb, the result of a hard one-hopper from Sandy Alomar during Thursday's start against the Texas Rangers. Ponson left that game after 2M-= innings with blood seeping from the nail.

Still an Oriole as the waiver deadline passed, Ponson made his first appearance since the injury and fell behind 1-0 in the first inning after a leadoff walk to Chone Figgins and a two-out infield hit by Guerrero.

Guerrero drilled a ground ball that deflected off Melvin Mora's right hand and left the third baseman scrambling in the dirt, unable to make a play as Figgins scored. Mora shook his hand, the apparent victim of another freakish injury, but he stayed in the game after manager Lee Mazzilli and head trainer Richie Bancells ran from the dugout. Mazzilli and Bancells have become jogging partners lately. Another player goes down, and they rush to his aid.

The Orioles reduced the lead to 4-1 in the fourth on a Javy Lopez double off Bartolo Colon (13-6) and consecutive singles by Sammy Sosa and B.J. Surhoff, but Guererro crushed another two-run homer in the fifth.

The clubhouse was mostly quiet after the game, minus any music or loud chatter, and minus one significant player. Both losses hurt deeply. Only one will be felt today.

"It kind of hit me all at once - how we"re playing, how we fell off the top of the division, and now this." infielder Chris Gomez said. "What Raffy has to live with and the ramifications for the Hall of Fame it's just really sad."

Orioles tonight

Opponent Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Site, time Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Calif.), 10:05

TV/Radio Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters Orioles' Erik Bedard (5-3, 2.32) vs. Angels' John Lackey (8-4, 3.70)

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