- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

BALTIMORE Mike Bordick's value to the Baltimore Orioles is often overlooked. Light-hitting shortstops who are one week shy of their 37th birthday typically are.
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, however, will tell you that few players on his roster have been as valuable as Bordick, for his brilliant play in the field, his leadership in the clubhouse and his experience in crucial situations.
"I'm not exaggerating when I say I don't know where we'd be without him," Hargrove said last night after Bordick's 3-for-3 performance keyed Baltimore's 6-5 win over the Seattle Mariners. "He's a real standing force that keeps our young guys in focus and really helps out. Mike's a very important part of this ballclub."
Bordick's defensive wizardry has been on display every day this season. In 80 games, he has committed just one error, a staggering statistic for someone who plays the most demanding position on the field. Last night, his offensive power and baserunning wiles stole the show.
With an aggressive decision in the third inning to tag up from second on a fly ball to left field, Bordick put his team in position to score its second and third runs of the game. And with one big three-run blast in the fourth, he put the Orioles ahead for good against the AL-West leading Mariners.
As third baseman Tony Batista put it succinctly: "He won the game today."
Baltimore was trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the third, but had the bases loaded with one out. Melvin Mora lofted a fly ball to left field that was going to score Geronimo Gil from third easily. When left fielder Mark McLemore caught the ball moving backward, Bordick unexpectedly took off for third. With Jerry Hairston also advancing to second, Bordick's heads-up play proved big Chris Singleton followed with another fly ball, this one deep enough to score Bordick with the Orioles' second run.
"I saw the way he caught the ball, and I thought, 'Well, I've got a chance,'" Bordick said. "If he was in front of it, I probably wouldn't have gone. But he caught it kind of behind him, so I took off."
"That," Hargrove said, "was a great baserunning play."
Hairston also made an aggressive move pay off. When Gary Matthews Jr. followed Singleton with a hard smash to first that was bobbled by John Olerud, Hairston was right on top of things. He never eased up rounding third and came all the way around to score to make it 4-3.
The Orioles didn't need speed to take the lead one inning later. Bordick's bat was enough.
With two runners on and one out, the light-hitting shortstop worked the count to 3-1 against Mariners right-hander Ryan Franklin (4-2), then belted a fastball to left field. Bordick's fourth homer of the year put Baltimore ahead 6-4 and elicited a loud ovation from the Camden Yards crowd of 38,411.
"He had thrown me a bunch of sliders," said Bordick, who also singled and doubled on the night. "Fortunately he left that fastball up a little bit and I was able to get a good part of the bat on it."
All was not perfect on this night for Bordick. He was forced to leave the game following the seventh inning with a bruised right knee, the result of a collision with Seattle's Carlos Guillen the previous inning. Caught in a rundown while attempting to steal second, Bordick slid into Guillen's right leg with his helmet. He later realized he had hurt his knee as well.
X-rays came back negative, but Bordick may sit out this afternoon's game for precautionary reasons.
"I got up and felt fine," he said. "And then when I started walking around, I noticed my knee was bothering me a little. I decided I better get it checked out, but fortunately the X-rays are fine."
Bordick clearly had his best all-around game of the year. Starting pitcher Sidney Ponson can't quite say the same thing, but the Orioles right-hander did manage to put together a gutsy 6⅔ innings to emerge with his first win in nine starts.
Ponson (4-4) put his team in an early 4-0 hole when he gave up a pair of third-inning homers, both on first-pitch fastballs. But he finished strong, not allowing an earned run to score in his final four innings and picking up his first win since May 23.
"It's awesome, man," Ponson said.
A quartet of Baltimore relievers B.J. Ryan, Willis Roberts, Buddy Groom and Jorge Julio closed out the game and ensured the Orioles' second straight win. Julio pitched a perfect ninth, twice hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, to earn his 19th save.
Notes The Orioles purchased the contract of outfielder Howie Clark from Class AAA Rochester yesterday, adding yet another surprising rookie to their major-league roster.
Clark, 28, spent 10 years in the Orioles' farm system (plus a season in the Mexican League) without getting a call-up, but was hitting .330 at Rochester and led the International League with 117 hits. He joins five other former minor-league free agents (Travis Driskill, Rodrigo Lopez, Luis Lopez, Willis Roberts, Yorkis Perez) on Baltimore's current 25-man roster.
To make room for Clark, the Orioles designated first baseman Ryan McGuire for assignment. McGuire, who was called up on May 18, appeared in only 17 games and was batting just .077 (2-for-26).
Outfielder Chris Richard re-started his rehab assignment last night at Rochester after an MRI taken on his surgically repaired left shoulder showed no new damage. Richard, who underwent the surgery over the winter, cut short his original rehab stint after three games because of lingering pain.

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