- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2001


BALTIMORE Maybe, just maybe, the Baltimore Orioles have solved their hitting woes.

They're not exactly battering opponents all over the ballpark, but with an 11-3 win last night over the Detroit Tigers, the Orioles continued a weeklong offensive surge that has been a long time coming.

It wasn't all that necessary, not with Sidney Ponson looking sharp again and recording his first win of the year in his second start since coming off the disabled list. But it's certainly a welcome change from the anemic offensive output that had been the norm through the first month of the season.

Baltimore has rapped out at least nine hits in each of its last six games, scored an average of eight runs during that span and no longer boasts the worst-hitting lineup in the majors. (The woeful Pittsburgh Pirates, with a .228 team batting average entering play last night, now hold that distinction, with the Orioles hitting .240.)

"It's a juggernaut, isn't it?" manager Mike Hargrove said jokingly. "I still think being no-hit in the second game of the season [by Boston's Hideo Nomo] put a huge mental block in front of us. It just takes time to work that out. I don't think we're going to score 10 to 11 runs every game, but we've got guys that are good hitters."

Last night's outburst was more a product of patience than anything else the Orioles coaxed nine walks and a hit-by-pitch out of Detroit hurlers Dave Mlicki, Heath Murray and Matt Miller, resulting in a three-run first inning and a five-run fifth that blew the game open.

All 10 batters who saw action picked up at least one hit as Baltimore set its season-high for runs scored.

Of their 15 hits on the night, only David Segui just activated off the 15-day disabled list and Mike Bordick picked up an extra-base hit. Segui's double with two outs in the bottom of the first scored both Chris Richard and Jeff Conine and put the Orioles up 3-0. Bordick's double down the left-field line in the seventh added to Baltimore's already large lead.

Otherwise, the Orioles chipped away at the Tigers by taking advantage of Mlicki's wildness, working the count and coming through with several clutch hits.

"Good hitting teams usually hit deep in the count," Hargrove said. "Logic states that the more pitches you see, the better chance you have to hit the ball hard. And as a hitter, that's really all you can do… . Yeah, we've been a little more patient the last three to five days."

Mlicki (3-3) was all over the place from the start, walking Brady Anderson and Melvin Mora, plunking Conine and giving up hits to Bordick, Richard and Segui in the three-run first inning alone.

Baltimore took a 4-0 lead on Jerry Hairston's RBI single in the fourth but saw its lead cut to one on one swing in the top of the fifth. With the bases loaded and two out, Tony Clark laced Ponson's 2-2 fastball down the right-field line for a bases-clearing double.

That was the only mistake Ponson (1-3) made all night. The right-hander showed no signs of arm trouble he missed three weeks with tendinitis in his right elbow as he blew away the Tigers with a fastball that reached 96 mph. In five innings of work, Ponson struck out eight, walked three and finally notched his first victory of the season, leaving 0-6 Jose Mercedes as the lone member of the Orioles rotation yet to win a game.

Though the results of his last two outings show good progress, Ponson still said he's not completely back to top form.

"Three starts into the season, you go down, and that will set you back a little bit," he said. "You have to keep throwing to get your arm strength back. I'm throwing the ball better than my first three starts, and I'm happy about that. But I still have a couple of things to work on."

Ponson's win was assured with Baltimore's five-run fifth. Mlicki was yanked by Detroit manager Phil Garner after loading the bases on two walks and a single, but Murray was no more effective. Greg Myers, starting as designated hitter for the second straight game, drove in one with a single to right, Segui worked an 0-2 count into a run-scoring walk and Melvin Mora brought two more home with a base hit to left.

"We all just came out collectively and swung the bats," Segui said. "That's just one of the great things about baseball. You go through phases where you swing the bat great, and you go through phases when you're not swinging the bat well."

Chad Paronto was outstanding in relief of Ponson, tossing three no-hit innings before giving way to closer Ryan Kohlmeier, who retired the side in the ninth in a non-save situation.

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