- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001


MIAMI The Baltimore Orioles are playing some of their ugliest baseball of the season, so ugly they are on the brink of falling into the bad baseball team abyss with no chance to escape.
Last night's 8-3 loss to the Florida Marlins was the Orioles' 10th in 12 games and drops them 11 games under .500 at 41-52. And now they face the prospect of coming back to Camden Yards today tired and beaten to play a day-night doubleheader against the Texas Rangers. The only solace is that the Rangers, with a 38-55 record, are in worse shape.
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove acknowledged his team has fallen into a disturbing pattern.
"We haven't really been playing the crisp way that we had before the All-Star break, and it hasn't gone unnoticed," he said. "But we are a team in transition, and there are going to be inconsistent times. We just have to take the good with the bad."
The way they lost last night indicates the Orioles are slowly changing from a young, exciting, competitive team to a young, frustrating, losing one.
Starting pitcher Sidney Ponson (5-6) appeared unable to concentrate, allowing four runs on five hits and three walks in four innings, throwing 86 pitches over that short span.
Two baserunners Brady Anderson and Brian Roberts made errors. Anderson was picked off first after walking to open the game. Roberts, a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, singled to right to lead off the inning and stole second. But then, with the Orioles down 4-1, he tried to steal third and was thrown out.
Baltimore also committed two errors, one in the third inning by shortstop Melvin Mora and the other in the sixth inning when Anderson misplayed a single to right by Eric Owens for a two-base error. Owens scored in what turned out to be a three-run inning against Orioles reliever John Wasdin.
Besides the ineptness in the field, the Orioles' offense continued its slump. In the Marlins' three-game sweep, Baltimore scored a total of four runs two of them in the seventh last night on a two-run home run by Cal Ripken that pleased the crowd at Pro Player Stadium so much they called him out for a curtain call. Ripken nearly hit a second one in the ninth off reliever Vic Darensbourg, lining a shot down the left-field line that just landed foul.
At this point, the only thing to cheer for is Ripken's farewell tour, which he has brought to life with renewed power at the plate, starting with his All-Star Game home run and continuing in Atlanta on Saturday with two home runs against the Braves. He has hit safely in 20 of his last 22 games with four home runs and 14 RBI.
But the rest of the Orioles' offense has disappeared. They have scored just 36 runs in their last 12 games and came into last night's game batting .198 over the previous 11 games. It appeared that they were on their way to getting no-hit by Florida starter A.J. Burnett (7-5) until Jay Gibbons hit a solo home run to left in the fifth inning.
The Marlins, who are going in the opposite direction of the Orioles with five wins in their last six games and a 48-46 record, had no problems offensively. Kevin Millar drove in three runs on two singles, and Cliff Floyd had a solo home run.
Notes Right-hander Sean Douglass was called up from Class AAA Rochester to start the first game of today's doubleheader. Hargrove held off saying who would start the first game, and Sunday he insisted it would not be Douglass. But before last night's game, Hargrove said Douglass was back in the mix, and after the game last night the Orioles made the move.
That means Hargrove will start three rookies Douglass (6-7, 3.92 ERA in Rochester), Josh Towers and Willis Roberts in the three-game series with the Rangers.
Hargrove said Douglass was being considered "because he's on the 40-man roster and he threw well his last time out." In his last start Friday, Douglass allowed just one run and three hits over eight innings, striking out nine and walking one.
To open a spot on the 25-man roster, right-handed reliever Chad Paronto (1-3, 5.00 ERA in 24 appearances) was sent to Rochester. Paronto allowed one hit in 1!= innings last night… .
The Orioles could be faced with another roster move if first baseman David Segui's injured left knee proves to be serious. He missed Saturday's game in Atlanta and was in the starting lineup Sunday against Florida. But he left the game in the bottom of the second and has not played since. Hargrove said an MRI performed Monday did not reveal any damage, but Segui will be examined today by team doctors in Baltimore.
"It's still way sore in one spot, and that clouds the issue in terms of anything," Hargrove said.
Segui already has had one stint on the 15-day disabled list, from April 28 to May 15 because of an injured left hand.

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