- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays yet again last night was nothing new for the Baltimore Orioles.

Coming from behind to score six runs in the seventh inning was.

Behind their biggest one-inning offensive explosion of the season led in part by a suddenly resurgent Cal Ripken the Orioles rallied from two runs down to topple the Devil Rays 8-6, winning a game they trailed after six innings for the first time in 14 tries this year.

Baltimore, which snapped a six-game losing streak in the process, benefited from a groin injury to Tampa Bay starter Albie Lopez, who had pitched 3 1/3 perfect innings to open the game, and beat up on the Devil Rays' bullpen a rare feat for the Orioles.

Coming into the game, Baltimore had gone 26 straight innings without scoring a run off a relief pitcher, dating back to a ninth-inning rally against the Minnesota Twins' Eddie Guardado on April 28. That streak ended in notable fashion last night, with the Orioles scoring all eight of their runs off Tampa Bay relievers Mike Judd and Ryan Rupe, six in the seventh inning alone.

"Any time we score six runs in a game is big news for us," manager Mike Hargrove said.

The game's underlying story figured to be Sidney Ponson's first start after spending nearly a month on the disabled list with tendinitis in his pitching elbow. Ponson was mildly impressive, tossing four innings and featuring his trademark sharp fastball.

He was something of an afterthought, though, by the end of the night, overshadowed by the Orioles' offensive explosion and Josh Towers' first major league win.

Making his third bullpen appearance since being called up from Class AAA Rochester on April 28, Towers gave up two runs in three innings, good enough to pick up career victory No. 1 the fifth Oriole rookie to do so this year.

The right-handed control artist, who was a starter throughout his minor-league career, has a 3.18 ERA in 5 2/3 innings and has yet to walk a batter since his promotion.

"To have my first major-league win is nice," Towers said. "But I'm more excited about us breaking the six-game losing streak."

Stymied for the first four innings last night, the Orioles' lineup came to life in the latter stages of the game. Jerry Hairston drove in two runs with a two-out single up the middle in the fifth, tying the game at 2-2.

The big explosion came two innings later when Baltimore scored six runs off Rupe (2-4) and sent 10 men to the plate in one inning for the first time this season. Melvin Mora started it off with a bunt base hit, Delino DeShields and Ripken who has seven hits in his last four games each had two-run singles, then Mora capped the inning with a two-run double in his second at-bat.

"I was happy with what it meant for the team. That was important," said Ripken of his key base hit, which gave the Orioles the lead for good. "I was glad I could contribute."

Ponson was sharp early on, retiring the first five batters he faced and striking out Russ Johnson on a 95-mph fastball. He ran into a bit of trouble in the third, giving up a leadoff double to John Flaherty and a walk to Gerald Williams, but got out of the jam with two strikeouts and a pop-up.

The right-hander's only mistake was a 1-2 fastball to Greg Vaughn in the bottom of the fourth, a pitch Vaughn clobbered down the left-field line for a two-run homer his sixth of the season and fifth against the Orioles.

Otherwise, Ponson was effective in his first start since April 15, also against Tampa Bay, finishing with two runs, three hits, two walks and four strikeouts in four innings. He threw 72 pitches, 45 for strikes.

"I felt pretty good, and I'm happy with the way I threw the ball," said Ponson, who has yet to earn a win. "The most important thing was we won the ballgame."

Lopez dominated the Baltimore lineup much as he did during a complete-game shutout against the Orioles April 13 at Camden Yards, retiring 10 straight batters to open the game, only to be forced to leave the game after straining his right groin muscle on a fourth-inning pitch to Mike Bordick.

Trailing 8-4, the Devil Rays cut the lead in half on Fred McGriff's two-run homer off Buddy Groom in the eighth. But Mike Trombley, coming off Sunday's loss to the Yankees, finished the game off with 1 2/3 scoreless innings, picking up his second save of the season.

Hargrove said he went with Trombley to end the game because he matched up better with Tampa Bay's left-handed hitters than closer Ryan Kohlmeier, who never got up to throw in the bullpen.

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