- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2000

YANKEES 13, ORIOLES 9

NEW YORK For most of this disappointing season the Baltimore Orioles have been free of off-field distractions and clubhouse divisiveness despite their losing record. But Thursday manager Mike Hargrove disciplined three players, including losing pitcher Sidney Ponson, for traveling to Baltimore to attend a rock concert Tuesday night and not returning to New York until early Wednesday morning.

Ponson, fellow starter Scott Erickson and utility man Jeff Conine rented a limousine after Tuesday afternoon's game in the Bronx, traveled to Baltimore for the concert by Metallica at PSINet Stadium, then drove through the night to return to the club's Manhattan hotel.

The Orioles played a night game Wednesday but Thursday's game started at noon and Ponson, 23, wasn't sharp, giving up six runs in 1 2/3 innings as the Orioles blew a 7-0 lead and fell to the New York Yankees 13-9 before 44,104 at Yankee Stadium.

Hargrove did not disclose the nature of the discipline but said it would not impact the trio's playing time.

"It's an internal matter and I would like to keep it like that as much as possible," he said.

Hargrove said he didn't learn of the trip to Baltimore until after Thursday's game. In the post-mortem of the team's second straight loss, he summoned the three to his office in full view of the media, a first for him this season.

Ponson admitted to not being mentally ready to pitch such an early game. But he downplayed the concert as a factor.

"I could have stayed out till 4, 5, 6 a.m. in New York," he said.

Despite the many woes of the Orioles (36-47), the team has stayed fairly unified, but its habit of blowing big leads this was the sixth of five or more runs the Orioles have lost is putting cracks in that unity.

First baseman Will Clark was livid that Ponson wasn't able to take advantage of the latest lead. Ponson escaped the first inning unscathed but gave up an infield single, then walked four straight batters to begin the second. He was ultimately charged with six runs before being replaced by Jason Johnson.

"It's inexcusable," Clark said. "They had 13 runs on eight hits and worse, they had [the first] six runs on three hits. You can't ask your offense to go out and score 12 or 13 runs every day."

The Orioles' 13-34 road record is the worst in baseball and on most of their road trips they have blown big leads.

"I saw it on the last road trip and the one before that, and it's getting old," Clark said. "When you pound the opposing pitcher, you have got to put the opponent away… . Sidney throws 94, 95 miles per hour. With stuff like that, you're gonna get major league hitters out. All you have to do is throw strikes."

Conine entered the series as the Orioles' leading hitter but went 2-for-12 and committed an error Thursday that allowed a run to score after the Orioles had fallen behind.

While Ponson's performance hurt the Orioles, equally damaging was the performance of Johnson, who replaced Ponson in his first relief appearance since being demoted to the bullpen this week.

In two innings, Johnson gave up three homers and allowed six runs to become the first Orioles pitcher to start the season 0-8 since Mike Boddicker set the club mark for consecutive losses to open the season in 1988.

The Orioles built their lead by pounding Ed Yarnall, who was making his first appearance of the season. Brady Anderson began the game with the 40th leadoff home run of his career, second only to Rickey Henderson's 78.

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