- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001


BALTIMORE At long last, the Baltimore Orioles have located the long ball the only glitch is they haven't found a way to keep opponents from reaching the cheap seats.

Tampa Bay's John Flaherty hit a home run off Sidney Ponson in the seventh inning that proved to be the decisive shot in the Devil Rays' 7-4 win before 30,441 yesterday at Camden Yards.

Flaherty's two-run shot was one of four homers by the Devil Rays. The catcher's first home run of the season broke a 3-3 tie when it landed three rows into the left-field stands. Teammate Greg Vaughn was a terror all game, finishing with two home runs, four hits and four RBI. Vaughn and Fred McGriff hit back-to-back first-inning home runs.

"I left a pitch right down the middle for Flaherty, and he put it out," said Ponson, who absorbed the loss and fell to 0-3 after allowing five runs in seven innings. "That was the story of the game. I tried to go down and away and left it right down the middle."

Baltimore (5-7) failed in its bid to get back to .500 and has dropped five of its last seven. Orioles manager Mike Hargrove got so frustrated with the strike zone that he was ejected for the first time this season after Melvin Mora looked at a called third strike to end the eighth inning. Tampa Bay (4-8) has won two of three in the series, which concludes tonight at 7:05.

The Devil Rays' four home runs are more than the Orioles have this season. However, in one inning yesterday, Baltimore tripled its home run total when Greg Myers and Jerry Hairston cracked solo shots in the fourth inning to tie the game.

It may have been the beginning of an offensive resurgence after the Orioles entered the weekend hitting-impaired. Before yesterday, Baltimore ranked last in the major leagues in batting average (.195), runs (26) and home runs. The Orioles totaled 10 runs in the past two games and yesterday showed they can occasionally go deep.

"It's progress," said Hairston, who nailed a 3-1 fastball inside the left-field foul pole to tie the game at 3-3. "Right now, it's baby steps. Hopefully, we'll continue."

Doug Creek (1-0) got the win by pitching two innings in relief, and former Oriole Esteban Yan earned his first save with a perfect ninth. The game ended when Mike Bordick took a called third strike, and the crowd booed the umpire in disapproval. It was the fifth time in the game that an Oriole struck out looking.

"I'm not going to say anything about the umpires," Hargrove said. "It doesn't do me or anybody any good."

Hargrove and home plate umpire Jim Reynolds had to be separated by umpire John Shulock. Reynolds tossed Hargrove.

Bordick continued his hot start by going 3-for-5 and is batting .333. Myers, who started the last two games at catcher to spell Brook Fordyce, went 3-for-4, and Hargrove said he likely will get at-bats as a designated hitter. As a team, the Orioles are hitting .201 after nine hits yesterday.

However, several Orioles continued their horrific starts. Leadoff man Brady Anderson went 0-for-4 and is hitting .136 with six hits in 44 at-bats. Mora also was hitless in four at-bats and is down to .135. No. 3 hitter Delino DeShields went 0-for-3 before being lifted for pinch-hitter Mike Kinkade. DeShields is batting .083 with three hits in 36 at-bats.

"I see a guy right now that is a little unsure of what he's doing," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said of DeShields. "He's being a little tentative at the plate. This is the first day I had really noticed that."

Baltimore also continued its streak of not having a starting pitcher win a game; the group is now 0-6.

The Orioles battled back from a 3-0 first-inning deficit and tied the game on the two fourth-inning homers. Myers' homer was a 410-foot blast into the stands next to the scoreboard in right center. It matched Baltimore's entire home run production for the season. Jeff Conine hit the Orioles' previous homer April 8. Hairston then knotted the game with his home run.

Vaughn's two-run shot in the first inning came after Gerald Williams doubled down the third-base line on the first pitch of the game. Vaughn laced a line-drive into the left-field seats on an 0-1 pitch for his second homer of the season. McGriff followed with a 398-foot blast to right-center for his second homer.

Vaughn later padded the lead with a solo shot in the eighth to make it 6-3. The Orioles cut the lead to 6-4 in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Myers before Mora was left looking on an outside pitch and Hargrove was ejected.

Note Orioles first baseman David Segui didn't play for the first time this season because of sore hamstrings. He was replaced by Chris Richard.

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