- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2000

MINNEAPOLIS After a road trip that featured the strain of four last-inning losses and the circus that accompanied Cal Ripken's pursuit of 3,000 hits, the Baltimore Orioles couldn't get home soon enough.

That was evident in their performance yesterday afternoon as they played their fastest game (2:08) of the season en route to a 5-0 win over the Minnesota Twins before 14,066 at the Metrodome.

The Orioles played like a team that had a plane to catch the club's charter always waits for them jumping to a 5-0 first inning lead and then getting only three hits and no walks the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Sidney Ponson did his best to make sure the Orioles were back in Baltimore in time to catch last night's broadcast of the Sopranos. The Aruban gave the Orioles their best pitching performance of the season.

The right-hander took advantage of a Twins lineup that featured eight left-handed hitters. He allowed just four hits, two walks and a hit batter in the club's first shutout and complete game of the season.

The Orioles have now won two straight games after the first road trip of the season began with the bullpen blowing three leads and losing four games. Baltimore improved to 7-5.

"This win was important because we played so well this year; 5-5 wasn't indicative of how we performed, we just ran into a hot team in Kansas City [where the Orioles lost the first three games of the road trip] and were a little unlucky not to win," outfielder Brady Anderson said. "It's nice to get our record back to a respectable level."

Anderson did his part when he led off the game with a home run but the bigger story was Ponson, who pitched like he was ready to fulfill his potential. Relying on a change-up that confounded the Twins hitters, the 23-year-old Ponson got 18 ground ball outs, including eight that went to second baseman Jesus Garcia.

"The guys behind me did all the work, deserve all the credit. They made all the plays behind me and got me some runs," Ponson said. "I was just throwing fastball, change-up; fastball change-up, and then occasionally throwing a breaking ball."

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove credited catcher Willie Morales, who will be sent down to Class AAA Rochester today when Greg Myers is activated from the disabled list, for calling for plenty of change-ups.

"Willie Morales did a real nice job," Hargrove said. "[Ponson] was able to throw that effectively for a lot of strikes."

What happened in the top of the first inning didn't come as a surprise considering Twins pitcher Joe Mays entered the game with a 13.50 ERA.

Anderson began with the 37th leadoff home run of his career. Mike Bordick followed with a single stretching his hitting streak to 13 games dating back to the final game of last season and B.J. Surhoff followed with a double. Albert Belle then doubled to score Bordick and Surhoff.

One out later, Jeff Conine, who started at third as Cal Ripken got the afternoon off the day after getting career hit 3,000, homered to left field and gave Ponson a 5-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.

The Orioles managed only three more hits, two by Belle and one from Will Clark, who was playing for the first time since leaving Thursday's game with back spasms.

Ponson got off to a rocky start. He allowed two base-runners in each of the first three innings. With two outs in the second inning, Ponson fanned Jacque Jones but the pitch got past Morales and Jones reached first. Ponson then hit Torii Hunter, who was crowding the plate, and the two exchanged words as Hunter took his base.

Not wanting the incident to unsettle his young pitcher, Hargrove came to the mound and quietly but firmly calmed Ponson.

"He just needed to be settled down," Hargrove said. "I didn't want them to get a big inning and he came back and got the next out and that really shut them down from there."

Ponson got Todd Walker to fly to left to end the second and, after giving up a hit and a walk with two outs in the third, retired the next 10 batters. He allowed two base-runners both singles the rest of the game and earned the first shutout of his major league career.

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