- The Washington Times - Monday, July 1, 2002

BALTIMORE The Baltimore Orioles have played a competitive brand of baseball for the better part of this season. They may not have the pure talent to match most opposing clubs, but they've made up for it with both strong pitching and rock-solid defense.
Which made yesterday's 8-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies particularly agonizing. The Orioles lost their starting pitcher in the third inning, lost their gloves in the sixth inning and ultimately lost their second game of three against their interleague counterparts.
"I don't think there's any worse way [to lose a ballgame] than for it to happen the way it did [today]," said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, whose team entered the day tied with the Twins for the best fielding percentage in the American League. "That doesn't happen very often with our ballclub. One time is one too many."
Three errors in the sixth inning did in the Orioles for good, but Sidney Ponson's abbreviated start certainly didn't help matters. As he has been throughout the month of June, Ponson was sharp on the mound, allowing one hit and striking out three in his first two innings of work.
But upon retreating to the dugout following the second inning, he was sporting a nasty blister on the pad of his right middle finger and headed straight for trainer Richie Bancells. Ponson was hopeful he could continue to pitch, but as he attempted to warm up to start the third, he knew his day was over.
"I tried to go out there, but it was hurting," Ponson said. "I didn't want to [jeopardize] my next start. One more pitch could have ripped the whole skin off."
It was a frustrating end to an odd month for Ponson, who strung together perhaps the best six-start stretch of his career (2.41 ERA) yet posted an 0-1 record with five no-decisions.
"It's frustrating if you don't get any wins, but at least the team's winning," he said. "I can give up seven runs, and if we beat them 8-7, that's a win for the team. Hopefully the wins will come. I'm not worried about it. I just know that every time I've pitched lately, we're in the game. If I keep doing that, we'll win a lot of ballgames and everyone will be happy."
Ponson's premature departure yesterday put a strain on Baltimore's bullpen, but the Orioles still managed to head to the sixth inning clinging to a 4-3 lead, thanks in part to All-Star selection Tony Batista's 18th homer of the season (a two-run shot to left in the third).
That's when the wheels on the Orioles' usually well-oiled defensive machine fell off.
Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu led things off by drawing a walk off B.J. Ryan. He proceeded to steal second base and advanced all the way to third when backup catcher Brook Fordyce's throw skipped into the outfield.
Rick Bauer (3-4) came in from the bullpen and put the only two batters he faced on base. Left-hander Yorkis Perez walked Mike Lieberthal to load the bases with two outs but appeared to be out of the inning when Marlon Anderson rapped a one-hopper toward second.
Baltimore's Brian Roberts, however, booted his backhand attempt, allowing one run to score. On the next batter, Perez booted Ricky Ledee's comebacker, giving the Phillies a 6-4 lead.
"Obviously, you never want to make errors with the bases loaded and two outs, that's for sure," said Roberts, who has committed just three errors in 32 games. "It's an unfortunate mistake, and I'll take blame for it. Our pitchers did a great job and gave us a chance. That's what we're there for, to be behind them. And we weren't there today."
The Orioles had plenty of opportunities against Philadelphia right-hander Robert Person (3-4), who gave up five hits, walked seven and needed 112 pitches to make it through five innings.
But Baltimore stranded 11 runners in the game, including three with one out in the fifth. Fordyce popped out on Person's first pitch, and Mike Bordick was caught looking at an inside fastball to end the inning.
"Recently, we have been doing the job in those situations," Hargrove said. "When you have an opportunity as golden as the one we had, you have to score."


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