- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2000


The Baltimore Orioles learned the French word Montreal baseball fans use for sweep the hard way yesterday. And while the Orioles' vocabulary is growing, it's also being tasked to find new ways to explain the same thing, primarily losing games they are in position to win.
Once again the Orioles wasted a fine performance from their starting pitcher. Sidney Ponson masterfully handled the Expos' potent bats only to see the Orioles fail to give him even a crumb of run support in a 1-0 loss before 15,181 at Olympic Stadium.
The loss completed a three-game sweep at the hands of the Expos, who scored the game's only run on Lee Stevens' single in the eighth, and extended the Orioles' losing streak to five games. The loss also was the Orioles' 20th straight in Canada dating back to 1998 and left them 2-19 against the Expos (30-23) and the Toronto Blue Jays the past two seasons.
In almost all of the games during the current streak, the common denominator has been an inability to score runs. In the five games, the Orioles (23-31) have managed 11 runs, which spells trouble in any language.
"The way we're going right now, we never seem to have everything at the same time," Orioles catcher Greg Myers said. "You need to have everything click to break out of a slump. We didn't get the runs today."
What makes the lack of run support particularly bothersome is the Orioles haven't been shut down by the likes of Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson or Mike Hampton, whom they will face today when they open a three-game series in New York against the Mets.
In four of the five losses, the Orioles were matched up against starting pitchers who began the season in the minor leagues. Tampa Bay's Cory Lidle and Bryan Rekar, both minor league refugees, shut them down Wednesday and Thursday at Tropicana Field, and Saturday night the Orioles managed only four runs off Expos youngster T.J. Tucker, who was making his major league debut.
Yesterday, it was Tony Armas Jr., making just the fifth major league appearance of his career. In those four games the Orioles' pitchers combined to yield 14 runs, more than respectable in this high scoring era of Arena Baseball.
Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley said part of the Orioles' struggles comes from not seeing the opposing pitcher before.
"That's part of it. Any time you haven't seen a guy before he has a bit of an advantage," Crowley said. "But we also have some guys who are struggling right now and a lot of guys who are hitting the ball hard but it's going right at someone."
Yesterday was the kind of game the winner treasures and the loser laments. Ponson, at 23 one year older than his counterpart, and Armas, went mano a mano for eight innings in a duel as much about skill as refusing to be the first one to give.
Armas, whose father played in the majors for 14 seasons, held the Orioles to two hits and never allowed a runner to third. He began the game striking out the side in the first inning, giving the Orioles a taste of what they were about to endure.
Ponson was the only Oriole ready for the challenge, and by the end of second inning he had matched Armas' whiff total. Ponson gave up singles in the second and third innings but didn't give up another hit until the seventh.
"He was very good today," Myers said about Ponson. "He was hitting his spots, his balls had good velocity and he changed speeds. He deserved to win."
The Orioles' best chances to score off Armas came from Myers, who reached second three times, first on a double and twice after Ponson bunted him over following an error and a walk. Each time Armas mowed down Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick to end the threat.
The Expos came close in the seventh when Mike Mordecai doubled with one out. Ponson then walked Brian Schneider but after a quick pep talk from Will Clark retired Orlando Cabrerra and Armas.
Ponson was not able to escape trouble in the eighth.
With two outs he gave up a double to Rondell White, who took third on an infield hit by Vladimir Guerrero. That hit, a high chop toward third, likely would have been the inning's third out on grass, but on Olympic Stadium's artificial turf third baseman Jeff Conine had no chance.
"That should have been an out," Myers said. "But on the turf, it's just a bad break we didn't get."
That set the stage for Stevens, whose single to left center scored White.
Expos closer Steve Klein came on to pitch the ninth and gave up a two-out double to pinch-hitter Mark Lewis, who advanced to third on a passed ball. After Conine walked, B.J. Surhoff slapped a hard shot that forced second baseman Geoff Blum to dive to his left, and his throw beat Surhoff to end the game and increase the Orioles frustrations.
That's the way things are going for us now," Surhoff said. "They got the big hit with two outs, and we didn't."

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