Orioles come up with power to surge past Blue Jays, 5-3

Gibbons, Surhoff homer in 6th-inning rally as O's win first series in 2 weeks


TORONTO - To reach the core of a baseball game, the Orioles have to peel away many layers. They seem to get thicker every day.

Pitcher Sidney Ponson's contract was terminated yesterday, a move that will bring a grievance from the players association. First baseman Rafael Palmeiro will leave the club today to have his sore right knee examined, raising some doubts about his return this season, and his future.

Almost hidden in the mess was Bernie Castro, a career minor league infielder who made a smashing debut last night. And young pitcher Hayden Penn, back in the rotation for his eighth major league start, another reminder that the games still mean something in September after a team falls out of contention.

Penn left after five-plus innings with the lead, and home runs by Jay Gibbons and B.J. Surhoff in the sixth steered the Orioles toward a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, and their first series win in two weeks.

Gibbons" two-run shot tied the game, giving him 20 homers this season, and Surhoff put the Orioles ahead, 4-3, with his first homer since June 6.

The Orioles (63-70) took a charter to Boston last night, where they"ll begin a three-game series against the Red Sox, but Palmeiro might not play.

Palmeiro is scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test on his knee today in Baltimore, and team physician Dr. Andy Cosgarea will determine whether he rejoins the club this weekend.

His right ankle also is injured, but the knee has become a more serious issue for Palmeiro, who's 2-for-26 since returning from his suspension. X-rays have been taken on the back portion, and he could be shut down for the final month if the MRI reveals any significant damage.

"The knee's been bothering me all year." he said. "I went out there today to run on it and it feels like it's going to blow out. We"ll see what's in there. I'd like to come back and play."

Said Perlozzo: "He's not ready to pack it in."

Though Palmeiro was unavailable last night, the Orioles weren't short-handed after bringing up Castro, 26, and first baseman Walter Young from Triple-A Ottawa. Normally a second baseman, Castro served as the designated hitter and went 2-for-4 with a triple, walk and stolen base.

Castro, signed as a minor league free agent in late January, got his first major league hit by beating out a ground ball to third, and his triple cleared center fielder Vernon Wells" head. He batted .315 with a franchise- record 158 hits at Ottawa, and his 41 stolen bases ranked third in the International League.

Castro came up through the New York Yankees" organization before being traded to the San Diego Padres. He spent the past two seasons at Triple-A Portland, and became a free agent after having problems obtaining his work visa.

"He's a scat-back guy that can do all kinds of things with the bat - walk, get on base and steal." Perlozzo said. "Backing him up with Brian [Roberts], maybe we can create some havoc at the top, see if we can't generate a little excitement."

Penn (3-2) needed to remain calm in his first start with the Orioles since June 30, when he allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians and returned to Double-A Bowie. He was 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his first tour.

Corey Koskie's double in the first inning, after Tejada's error, gave Toronto a 2-0 lead. The Blue Jays scored once in the fifth to lead 3-1, on a play when Penn forgot to cover first base on a ground ball. He exited after Shea Hillenbrand's leadoff single in the sixth with the Orioles ahead 4-3.

With left-hander Tim Byrdak still bothered by a sore shoulder, Steve Kline entered the game and started a double play. He retired the side in the seventh - he's allowed two earned runs in his past 15M-- innings - and Todd Williams and B.J. Ryan finished up.

NOTE: Single-A Frederick outfielder Jeff Fiorentino was named the organization's minor league Player of the Month for August after batting .347 with eight doubles, 12 homers and 33 RBIs in 32 games. Keys right- hander Brian Finch was named Pitcher of the Month after going 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA in five starts.

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