- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

NEW YORK Baltimore Orioles manager Mike Hargrove knew he would be playing with less than a full deck last night against the New York Yankees. His bullpen grossly overworked over the past week, Hargrove came into the game at Yankee Stadium needing a solid effort from starting pitcher Sidney Ponson and a gutsy effort from what few relievers he had available.
"We had to have someone go deep into the game for us," Hargrove said, "because our bullpen was just fried."
Ponson did his part, outdueling Roger Clemens in his best performance since a two-hit shutout at Toronto last June 28. The Orioles' relievers faltered briefly, allowing the Yankees to tie the game in the eighth inning.
But when it counted most, the beleaguered Baltimore bullpen recorded the crucial outs and made Mike Bordick's ninth-inning double off the left-field foul line stand up as the deciding blow in the Orioles' 4-3 win before 31,476.
Left-hander B.J. Ryan and rookie closer Jorge Julio were the unsung heroes out of the bullpen Ryan struck out Jason Giambi with the bases loaded in the eighth, and Julio recorded the final five outs to earn the win.
After blowing a 3-1 lead, the Orioles came back to take the lead for good in the ninth. Gary Matthews Jr. singled off New York closer Mariano Rivera (1-2), stole second and then scored when Bordick dropped a two-out hit just on the chalk down the left-field line. The ball was so close to the line that Matthews briefly held up coming around third thinking it might have been foul.
Bordick had no idea where the ball landed.
"I knew it was going to be close," he said. "[Third base coach Tom Trebelhorn] said it hit the left side of the chalk."
Julio (3-4), who had four losses and two blown saves in his last nine outings, finished the game off.
"We keep being asked about his confidence being knocked down," Hargrove said of his rookie closer. "If that was going to happen, it probably would have happened about four outings ago, and he probably wouldn't have been able to survive the situation I brought him into tonight."
Ponson was simply outstanding, limiting the Yankees to two hits and three walks in his first six innings, retiring the first two batters he faced each time.
Only Nick Johnson, who hit a towering solo homer into the right-field upper deck in the fifth, had an answer for Ponson until the eighth inning, when he finally began to unravel with the Orioles ahead 3-1.
Johnson led off with a single to left, and Alfonso Soriano followed with an RBI double to the left-field corner. Clearly rattled, Ponson walked Derek Jeter on four pitches, giving him 123 pitches for the night and giving Hargrove no choice but to go to his overworked bullpen.
"No matter what, I had to go deep tonight," Ponson said. "I just went out there and gave them everything I've got."
With Bernie Williams, Giambi and Jorge Posada due up, the situation screamed for left-handed specialist Buddy Groom. But the 36-year-old Groom pitched four of the last five days and was deemed unavailable. So Hargrove was left to trot out a trio of relievers to get through the inning.
Right-hander Willis Roberts failed to do his part, walking Williams on four straight pitches. Ryan, though, recorded perhaps the biggest out of his career, striking out Giambi on a 1-2 fastball with the bases loaded.
Enter Julio to face the switch-hitting Posada. Julio needed only one pitch to record the second out of the inning; unfortunately it came on a deep fly to center field that scored Soriano with the tying run. Julio rebounded to get Enrique Wilson on a fly out to end the inning and set the game tied into the ninth.
Clemens brought his best last night, leaving just about every Baltimore batter dumbfounded at some point during the game. He struck out 13 batters over seven innings, punching out every Baltimore starter but Jay Gibbons.
But the Orioles made the most of what few opportunities they had and turned some aggressive baserunning and one incredibly wild pitch by Clemens into two runs.
With one out in the second, Gibbons drew a walk, then raced around to third on Tony Batista's double to the left-field corner. Clemens immediately fell behind 3-0 to Matthews Jr. and decided to intentionally walk the Baltimore No. 7 hitter to set up a potential double play.
But in what can only be described as one of the most misplaced pitches in his storied 17-year career, Clemens launched his intentional ball four halfway to the backstop, allowing Gibbons to cruise home with the game's first run.
In the sixth, Brian Roberts led off with a single through the right-side hole, stole second during Chris Singleton's at-bat and stole third as Jeff Conine was striking out. Gibbons then rapped a bouncer up the middle and beat Soriano's throw by a half-step. Roberts scored, Gibbons clapped his hands, and the Orioles had a 2-1 lead.

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