- The Washington Times - Monday, August 21, 2000


BALTIMORE Baltimore Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson figured if he got off to a good start yesterday not exactly a pattern for the Orioles' staff this season maybe he could provide the beleaguered team with a needed boost.

Mission accomplished.

Ponson, who missed his last start because of a fatigued right shoulder, earned his first win since July 31, scattering six hits over eight innings to help the Orioles (54-69) to a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards. Jeff Conine drove in the winning run with a double in the eighth inning.

"Sidney did a good job here today," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Obviously he was strong. We really debated on whether to bring him back in the eighth; he had 109 pitches after the seventh."

Ponson, who earned just his second victory since the All-Star Game, hadn't pitched since Aug. 10, and there were no good memories from that outing. In a 14-3 loss to Detroit, Ponson allowed six runs, including four in the second inning, when six of the Tigers' first seven batters reached base.

Yesterday's win improved Ponson to 7-8. The loss went to Kansas City reliever Kris Wilson (0-1).

"You have good and bad nights, and that one [Aug. 10] was a bad night," Ponson said. "I think it was good that I was able to get some rest, even miss a start. Today I battled and the guys battled. That was the difference today."

Ponson set the tempo but Conine provided the game's difference when, with the game tied 1-1, he doubled to left-center field off Wilson's 3-2 pitch in the eighth inning, scoring Melvin Mora from second base.

Conine thought he had seen the pitch that he wanted one pitch earlier. However, he couldn't believe his eyes when another pitch that was just as hittable made its way down the pike.

"You usually don't get a pair of good looks like that, back-to-back," Conine said. "You have to be patient. I've been struggling lately with guys in scoring position and I didn't want to leave anybody out there."

Orioles reliever Ryan Kohlmeier came on in the ninth inning and retired the side in order to earn his fourth save of the year.

Baltimore's wretched season has featured inadequate pitching, arguably the worst in the American League. But lately it has been the Orioles' inability to score runs that has plagued them.

Down 1-0 in the fourth inning after Kansas City's Jermaine Dye homered for the 30th time this season, it appeared as if the lack of run support might result in the team's third loss in a row to the Royals. To that point, the Orioles had gone 18 innings without scoring. The infamous distinction stretched to 20 innings before finally coming to an end with Delino DeShields' run-scoring single in the sixth inning that tied the game at 1-1.

The 38,753 in attendance at Camden Yards let loose with a cheer that was as much a sigh of relief as it was a momentary celebration.

"There are times when runs can come easily, and then there are times when they seem almost impossible to get. We've gone through a couple of stretches this year when it seems like we couldn't buy a run," Hargrove said.

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