- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2002

PHILADELPHIA Aside from a forgettable 52 games with the San Diego Padres in 1979, Mike Hargrove has spent his entire major league career as a player and manager in the American League. It's the league he is most familiar with and clearly the league he is most comfortable in.
The Baltimore Orioles' manager has never been too keen on interleague play, so last night's chess match of a ballgame against the Philadelphia Phillies was hardly Hargrove's idea of a day at the park.
The Orioles ultimately won the game 7-3 before a Veterans Stadium crowd of 16,888 that seemed more interested in booing the self-imploding hometown club than anything else. But the intricate managerial maneuvers required in a National League ballpark forced Hargrove to pull starter Sidney Ponson after six outstanding innings, waste his backup first baseman an inning before starter Jeff Conine strained a hamstring and contemplate a drastic defensive alignment late in the game.
Two of the Orioles' most reliable and productive players, Conine and third baseman Tony Batista, injured themselves in the eighth inning and could leave the Baltimore infield in a shaky state for the rest of the series. Conine suffered a mild strain of his right hamstring while legging out a triple in the top of the eighth, a hit that scored two runs and snapped a 3-3 tie.
Conine, who had three RBI for the night, was immediately taken out of the game, but Hargrove couldn't use his true backup first baseman. Hargrove had already sent Ryan McGuire up to pinch-hit for Ponson in the seventh inning with the Orioles ahead 3-1. Except that McGuire never saw a pitch.
Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa countered with left-handed reliever Rheal Cormier, to which Hargrove replied by pinch-hitting Jerry Hairston for pinch-hitter McGuire.
With McGuire wasted, the Orioles were forced to move right fielder Jay Gibbons to first base for the game's final two innings. And when Batista hurt his left knee colliding with the fence along the left-field line, Hargrove nearly had to delve into his bag of tricks to produce a viable infield for the ninth inning.
Batista, who has played third base for all but one inning of the season, fell in a heap after chasing down Travis Lee's foul pop and crashing into the railing. Already dazed after taking Robert Person's fastball in the head one inning earlier, Batista probably should have been pulled from the game after bloodying his left knee. Had that happened, Melvin Mora likely would have moved to third base for the first time this season.
While they were suffering the sudden rash of injuries, the Orioles also were blowing the game open against Philadelphia's distressed bullpen. Conine's triple started off a four-run eighth. Gibbons and Marty Cordova followed with RBI singles, making a winner out of B.J. Ryan (1-0). Buddy Groom and Jorge Julio pitched the last two innings.
Lost among the late-inning excitement was another solid start by Ponson, who allowed one run in six innings before being lifted for the pinch-hitter but again failed to earn the victory.
Ponson got into significant trouble only once, in the fourth inning when he gave up a double to Bobby Abreu and then plunked Mike Lieberthal. Following a strikeout of new Phillies left fielder Jeremy Giambi, Ponson walked Scott Rolen to load the bases and bring Lee to the plate.
Lee, best remembered by Orioles fans for hitting a game-winning homer at Camden Yards on the day before last summer's All-Star break, dropped a sinking liner to left field. Cordova didn't appear to have a play but he dived headfirst into the Veterans Stadium turf and was fortunate to short-hop the ball.
Had Cordova missed, it might well have rolled to the wall, and the Phillies surely would have scored three runs, possibly four. Instead, Cordova got the ball back into the infield, and Philadelphia runners were able to advance just one base apiece, with Abreu scoring the game's first run.
Still facing a bases-loaded, one-out jam, Ponson buckled down, struck out Doug Glanville and then got Person to chase a 2-2 change-up to retire the side.
Another missed dive by Cordova allowed the Phillies to tie the game in the seventh. With two on, one out and the Orioles ahead by two runs, Abreu roped a shot down the left-field line. Cordova missed making the catch by a couple of feet, the ball rolled to the wall and Philadelphia tied the game.
Note Right-hander Calvin Maduro underwent successful surgery to remove a bone spur and bone chips in his elbow. The bone spur, which landed Maduro on the disabled list June7, was a little more significant than originally thought and will keep the pitcher out 8-12 weeks.


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