- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2004

BALTIMORE — By the time Alex Rodriguez blasted a two-run homer off Baltimore starter Sidney Ponson in the fifth inning last night, the Orioles crowd at Camden Yards had surrendered.

They had tried valiantly the previous two nights to drown out the Yankees fans populating the ballpark, but after watching their team give up 23 runs in two rain-drenched losses and then blow a 3-0 lead last night, there was no fight left in the Baltimore fans.

As A-Rod rounded the bases and many of the 46,282 spectators stood and cheered, Camden Yards was Yankee Stadium South once more — friendly territory in what turned out to be an 18-5 New York victory.

New York set season highs in runs and hits for one inning when it beat up on Ponson for eight runs and 10 hits in the fifth inning, after Baltimore led early 3-0 and added another hit off Mike DeJean before the Yankees finally were retired. Hideki Matsui had two hits in the inning.

The loss was the Orioles’ seventh straight and dropped them three games below .500 (20-23). In the series, New York hitters beat up on a decimated Orioles pitching staff for 41 runs — third highest for a three-game series in Yankees history and the most the Orioles have ever given up at home in a three-game series — and 51 hits. And Baltimore has to face the Yankees again next week, this time in the official Yankee Stadium, after a three-game trip to Detroit starting tonight.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said before the game he had given his team a pep talk. “I told them you have to stay positive,” he said. “Be positive and play the game. That’s basically what I said. I’m positive.”

Then his team went out on the field and was positively bad.

“It just wasn’t a good game,” Mazzilli said. “There’ll be some bumps in the road. You’ve got to grind it out. The Yankees played well in these three games, and we didn’t. This was not a whole season. We have a long way to go.”

Ponson said he simply made some poor pitches to a hot-hitting team and added, “If you don’t make good pitches, especially against that lineup, you are going to get hurt.”

Oddly, Ponson kept the Yankees off the scoreboard in the first four innings while his teammates gave him three runs of support in the third inning against Jose Contreras. Miguel Tejada hit a two-run homer into the left field seats, and Rafael Palmeiro followed with a solo homer to right. It was Palmeiro’s seventh of the year and the 535th of his career, moving him ahead of Jimmie Foxx and into 13th place on the all-time list.

The seemingly inevitable collapse of the Baltimore pitching came in the fifth inning. Matsui led off with a single to center. An out later, Tony Clark singled to right, and Enrique Wilson brought Matsui home with a sacrifice fly to center. Then the game turned into a T-ball contest.

Kenny Lofton singled and Derek Jeter doubled, driving home Clark and Lofton to tie the game. Rodriguez blasted an 0-1 pitch over the right-field scoreboard for a two-run homer. Gary Sheffield and Jorge Posada singled before Matsui scored both with a double to put the Yankees ahead 7-3.

Mazzilli had seen enough and pulled Ponson in favor of Mike DeJean, who has been dismal out of the bullpen of late. Williams quickly singled Matsui home before DeJean struck out Clark to end the inning.

Notes — After the game, the Orioles sent reliever Denny Bautista back to Class AA Bowie and recalled pitcher Eddy Rodriguez from Class AAA Ottawa. They also announced that catcher Keith Osik had cleared waivers but refused an assignment to Ottawa and was granted his unconditional release. …

Outfielder Jay Gibbons remains day-to-day with back spasms. Gibbons, who had an eight-game hitting streak was and batting .309 in his last 17 games, had to leave in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 11-3 loss to New York. In 39 games, Gibbons is batting .250 with six home runs and 25 RBI. B.J. Surhoff started in right field for the second straight game.

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