- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2001


BALTIMORE In 12 games against the New York Yankees this season, the Baltimore Orioles have found a way to lose in nearly every possible manner. They've been beaten by a pinch-hit grand slam, they've been beaten by their ex-ace and they've been beaten by dominating pitching.

To that dubious list, you can add this forgettable twist: The Orioles have now been beaten by a half-inch blister on Sidney Ponson's middle finger.

With Ponson forced out of yesterday's game after two innings, the Yankees jumped on reliever Calvin Maduro and hung on to beat Baltimore 4-3 on Independence Day at Camden Yards, improving to 10-2 against the Orioles.

"It's frustrating I feel like I let the team down," said Ponson, who developed a water blister in the second inning and pulled himself from the game before the start of the third after it began bleeding. "My arm felt really good today, and I was ready to battle these guys. Unfortunately, my finger acted up on me and I couldn't pitch."

The sellout crowd of 47,355 had barely settled when Ponson walked off the field after making one warmup toss in the top of the third inning.

After meeting briefly at the mound ith catcher Fernando Lunar and first baseman David Segui, the Baltimore starter made his way to the dugout, where manager Mike Hargrove and pitching coach Mark Wiley examined his right middle finger. Seconds later, Maduro was jogging in from the Orioles bullpen, forced to enter the game cold as a light rain fell.

"I threw the first pitch and some blood started coming out," said Ponson, who was coming off a two-hit shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays. "I knew if I threw a couple more pitches, I could have ripped the whole skin off."

Said Hargrove: "Those things happen. It's never good when it does. It really put us in a bind having to go to the bullpen a lot earlier than we anticipated. It had an impact on the game, but it's nothing we have to feel sorry for ourselves [about]."

Given as much time as he needed to warm up, Maduro struck out Derek Jeter to open the third, then gave up a single to Bernie Williams and a walk to Jorge Posada. Paul O'Neill, getting a rare start as designated hitter, crushed an 0-1 hanging curveball over the right-field scoreboard, giving New York a 3-0 lead.

"I felt like the only pitch I threw bad the whole game was the one to O'Neill," said Maduro (0-2), who gave up another run in the fifth during what turned into a 4!=-inning relief appearance. "And that was the costly one, too."

Trailing the entire game against Yankees ace Roger Clemens, the Orioles nonetheless made things interesting late. Brian Roberts tripled to lead off the fourth, extending his hitting streak to 10 games, and scored on Segui's single to left. Jay Gibbons later homered off Clemens (12-1) in the seventh, the rookie's 10th of the season and eighth in his last 15 games.

New York manager Joe Torre turned to newly acquired reliever Mark Wohlers with two out in the seventh, and the former Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds closer got himself into trouble the following inning. Jerry Hairston walked to lead off the eighth and moved to third two batters later on a perfect hit-and-run single by Segui.

With runners on the corners and one out, Torre summoned Mariano Rivera from the pen to face Jeff Conine, who had drilled a three-run homer off the Yankee closer May 13 in the Bronx. This time Conine fought off an 0-2 cut fastball from Rivera and flied out to shallow right field. Hairston tagged and scored to make it 4-3, while pinch-runner Brady Anderson (whose bruised shoulder had kept him out of six straight games) advanced to second.

With the tying run in scoring position, Gibbons stepped in against Rivera, who fired three straight cut fastballs. Gibbons swung and missed Rivera's first offering, fouled off the second and was caught looking at the third as it cut back over the outside corner of the plate.

"He just backdoored me it moved about a foot," Gibbons said. "It's one of those things where I haven't figured him out yet. Hopefully, I will eventually."

Rivera cruised through the ninth inning, retiring Tony Batista, Lunar and Larry Bigbie to record his 27th save and assure Clemens who battled through a few jams of his league-leading 12th victory in 13 decisions. It also was the Yankees' seventh consecutive win.

"Maybe with a break here or there, we could have done some damage to Roger," Hargrove said. "But Roger hasn't won five Cy Youngs by accident. He's pretty doggone good."

Notes Anderson's eighth-inning pinch-running duties ruled out any possibility of the injured outfielder being placed on the disabled list. Chris Richard (sprained right knee) is scheduled to come off the 15-day DL today, and there was speculation that Anderson (who had not played since last Tuesday) could go on the DL retroactively. Instead, the Orioles will have to make a different roster move when Richard is activated, with Bigbie likely being optioned back to Class AA Bowie… .

Reserves for next week's All-Star Game were announced by American League manager Torre yesterday, and no Orioles were included. Conine and pitcher Jason Johnson were long shots to make the squad, but neither expected it. Cal Ripken, elected to his 19th All-Star Game, will be the lone Baltimore representative and will start at third base Tuesday in Seattle… .

Utility player Mike Kinkade (bruised left thumb) made his first game appearance in 10 days, coming in to play first base in the ninth inning.

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