ARLINGTON, Texas - The sky began to darken in the seventh inning yesterday, the flags above center field whipping in the wind, trash swirling around the players' ankles. Fans were told to leave the upper deck because of the lightning. It appeared that disaster could strike any minute, which would have seemed routine to the Orioles. They've been in various stages of damage control for weeks.
A steroid suspension, injuries, a fired manager. These guys wouldn't even notice a hurricane.
Starting pitcher Sidney Ponson exited in the third inning with a strained right calf muscle, putting more pressure on a bullpen that's minus a long reliever. B.J. Surhoff limped off the field in the eighth with a strained left groin muscle, leaving the Orioles short another first baseman. And interim manager Sam Perlozzo lost his second straight game, 9-3, to the Texas Rangers at Ameriquest Field.
Bring on the bad weather.
"This isn't going to help us one bit," Perlozzo said.
Severna Park native Mark Teixeira homered in all three games of the series, including a two-run shot yesterday off reliever Jorge Julio that increased his total to 31, tying for the American League lead. He went 4-for-4 with three RBIs.
"Everything you try, he hits," catcher Sal Fasano said. "He's really locked in right now. We probably would have been better off just walking him. He's amazing right now."
Ponson and Surhoff will be re-evaluated tomorrow, with the disabled list a possibility. Surhoff has visited it once this season because of a strained muscle on his left side.
Yesterday's injury occurred as he beat the relay on an attempted double play during the Orioles' three-run eighth.
"There's no way to know now," he said of its severity. "We'll see what happens tomorrow and the next day."
Surhoff made another start at first base while Rafael Palmeiro continued to serve his 10-day suspension for violating baseball's steroid policy. Palmeiro can return to the roster on Thursday, but the Orioles (53-58) must play twice more without him.
Ponson (7-11) was injured while covering first base on a grounder by former Oriole Gary Matthews that ended the second inning. He came out for the third but retired only one batter before trainer Richie Bancells went to the mound.
The strain is located near the back of his knee. As usual, he wasn't talking to reporters after the game.
Ponson left a July 28 start against the Rangers in the third inning after being hit on the right thumb by a batted ball. He'll get an extra day's rest with today's open date on the schedule.
"He's had a pretty bad string of luck," Fasano said.
Already down 1-0, Ponson gave up a leadoff double to catcher Rod Barajas. Michael Young singled with one out to score Barajas, Teixeira singled and Hank Blalock walked to load the bases.
Todd Williams, the designated long reliever for the day, entered the game and retired Alfonso Soriano on a grounder that increased the Rangers' lead to 3-0 and left Ponson with a 6.21 ERA.
Perlozzo met with Ponson a few days ago for a "heart-to-heart talk" and asked the right-hander to take care of himself between starts, concentrate and go as far as he can. He clarified what he was expecting and how he expected Ponson to handle it. Perhaps a new manager can give him a cleaner slate.
"Let's just simplify this thing: Everything will be fine with Sidney if he gets people out," Perlozzo said. "We talk about his weight, we talk about this, we talk about that. Nobody will talk about anything if he gets somebody out a little more consistently than he has. He needs some positives.
"I've always had a good rapport with Sidney. I've never been in a position where it had to mean anything."
Kevin Mench opened the fourth with a home run off Williams, and Matthews hit a three-run shot off left-hander Tim Byrdak in the sixth, the ball traveling 433 feet.
"It was supposed to be a sinker away and it cut over the plate, and he hit it pretty well," Byrdak said.
Teixeira gave the Rangers a 9-0 lead in the seventh. The Orioles, who went 2-4 on the road trip and are 5-19 since the break, were shut out for seven innings by Chris Young (9-7) before scoring three times against Kevin Gryboski in the eighth.
The Orioles fell behind early on Teixeira's run-scoring single in the first, but they loaded the bases with two outs in the second on a walk and singles by Luis Matos and David Newhan. Fasano flied to center, and the Rangers took control.
"We come off a game where we scored 10 runs [Friday], and all of a sudden we're scuffling to get a two-out RBI, and then we get behind," Perlozzo said. "Right now we're playing station-to-station and that's not exactly what I'd like to see."
Perlozzo would like to see a parting in the storm clouds. The Orioles could use a little calm right now.