- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

ARLINGTON, Texas Perhaps the Baltimore Orioles, anticipating a walkout today, wanted to cap their last game of the season in fitting fashion. Or maybe they just wanted to give the fans in Texas their money's worth before many of them vow never to attend another game.
Whatever the motivation, the Orioles played last night as though the 2002 season was already over, instead of waiting for the formality of this afternoon's expected players' strike.
In a slow game chock full of poor pitching, bad defense and blown lead, the Orioles handed a 9-6 victory to the Texas Rangers, perhaps ending their promising season with a disappointing six-game losing streak.
Despite jumping out to a seemingly commanding 6-0 lead in the third inning, Baltimore wilted in the Texas summer night, giving back all six runs (plus three more) by the time it was over.
Since reaching the .500 mark last Friday, the Orioles (63-69) have gone winless. In all six games, they've wasted an early lead.
None, however, was as big as last night's six-run cushion. Behind Tony Batista's first-inning homer, two hits and a sacrifice fly in the second and Jeff Conine's RBI double in the third, Baltimore cruised to a 6-0 lead before many in the announced crowd of 20,467 had even settled into their seats at The Ballpark in Arlington.
But rookie right-hander Travis Driskill, who grew up a few hours down the road in Austin, was treated to a rude homecoming in his first major-league appearance in his home state. The Rangers touched the 31-year-old for two runs in the third and two more in the fourth. And after giving up a double and a walk to open the fifth, Driskill was unceremoniously removed from the game.
Reliever Rick Bauer didn't fare any better. He allowed an inherited runner to score in the fifth on second baseman Jerry Hairston's second throwing error of the night, then lost the Orioles' lead for good in the sixth.
With two out and two on, manager Mike Hargrove elected to intentionally walk cleanup hitter Rafael Palmeiro, bringing All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez to the plate. On a 1-1 pitch from Bauer (6-6), Rodriguez drilled a grand slam to straightaway center field, turning the Rangers' one-time 6-0 deficit into a 9-6 lead.
The Rangers' beleaguered bullpen, owners of a collective 5.24 ERA, turned into a dominating force against the Orioles. After picking up a double off C.J. Nitkowski in the fourth inning, Baltimore went hitless until the ninth.
Note Sidney Ponson threw a three-inning simulated game yesterday, and Hargrove gave every indication that the right-hander (who has a partially torn labrum) will be activated off the disabled list when rosters expand Sunday. "I really don't think that Sidney is at risk for injury," Hargrove said. "I think he's healthy."

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