- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2001


TORONTO When the majority of your games are being decided by one or two runs, your margin for error isn't particularly large.

When you are the Baltimore Orioles and you've lost nine games by one or two runs in the last two weeks, that margin for error looks about the size of one synthetic blade of turf at SkyDome, where the Orioles lost yesterday to the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1.

"The last month and a half when we've made a mistake, it's hurt us," said manager Mike Hargrove, who held a 25-minute, closed-door meeting following the Orioles' latest setback. "And we haven't been able, during this stretch, to play over that. That's part of the development process, it really is."

The mistake this time was a bobbled grounder by third baseman Tony Batista in the fourth inning of a 1-1 game. Toronto's response was a stolen base, a walk and a run-scoring single to right field, giving the Blue Jays and rookie pitcher Brandon Lyon a lead they would never lose.

And if Baltimore's ninth straight blown lead on the road wasn't troubling enough for this fast-fading team, which fell to a season-low 45-66, the postgame news that rookie outfielder Jay Gibbons is headed home to have his sprained right wrist examined made things worse.

On a day when they activated first baseman David Segui from the 15-day disabled list, the Orioles lost another key run producer in Gibbons, who could not complete his sixth-inning at-bat after re-aggravating his wrist on a foul ball.

Gibbons was late getting around on Lyon's 1-0 pitch and fouled it into the third-base stands. The 24-year-old slugger, who is second on the team and leads American League rookies with 15 home runs, instantly clutched his right hand and retreated to the dugout and then the clubhouse to be examined.

He flew back to Baltimore last night and will have a MRI performed today on the wrist, which has been sore for about two weeks. Outfielder Larry Bigbie, who was optioned Friday night to Class AAA Rochester to make room for Segui, was told to turn around and rejoin the team, leading to speculation that Gibbons will be placed on the DL.

"I haven't become resigned to [the DL] yet," Gibbons said. "I hurt it a couple of weeks ago, and it's been getting tighter every day. But I hope tomorrow I wake up and it's better."

Gibbons' teammates can only hope things are better when they wake up this morning. Owners of a 6-28 record since July 3, the Orioles have seemingly found a way to make one key mistake every night that inevitably leads to their downfall.

Sidney Ponson, once again the hard-luck loser, couldn't have done much more to merit his first victory since a June 28 complete-game shutout at SkyDome. The right-hander gave up a leadoff double to Carlos Delgado in the second yesterday that turned center fielder Chris Richard around in circles, then watched Delgado work his way around the bases on a flyout and a groundout.

Ponson's only other mistake an RBI single by infielder Felipe Lopez, making his second career start for Toronto allowed Mondesi to score from second after the Blue Jays slugger reached on Batista's error.

"We're in the same boat, and the boat is going down with all these guys," said Ponson (5-7), who went on to pitch a complete game. "We're struggling right now, but the only thing we can do is keep battling and hopefully we'll come out of it."

It didn't matter who Baltimore sent to the plate against Lyon, who offered up one of the best major league debuts in Blue Jays history.

After making just 11 starts at Class AAA before being promoted to replace released veteran Joey Hamilton, the 21-year-old was simply dazzling. Lyon gave up a run on three hits in the top of the first, but he allowed just two more Orioles to reach base: Melvin Mora on a double and Jeff Conine on a walk in the third inning.

When Toronto manager Buck Martinez finally removed him with one out in the eighth, Lyon had retired 14 in a row to become just the latest star born against the Orioles.

Baltimore found no more success against relievers Dan Plesac and Billy Koch (23rd save), who ensured that the Orioles' last 19 batters failed to reach base.

"We're having a bad time right now," Batista said. "But I think we're going to be better. The good times are going to come, tomorrow, the next day or the next week."

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