- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 19, 2002

BALTIMORE Having played each other last night for the 10th time in 38 days, the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Devil Rays didn't figure to offer up many surprises at Camden Yards.
Until Greg Vaughn decided to steal the show with a performance no one saw coming.
Vaughn, the Devil Rays' much-maligned designated hitter who hadn't hit a home run in 222 at-bats, went deep twice including a two-run shot in the ninth off struggling Baltimore closer Jorge Julio that gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 victory before 35,093 surprised fans.
"It's been so long since I hit one," Vaughn said, "I was trying not to miss a base."
A one-time vaunted slugger who entered last night with the majors' worst batting average (.107) had no homers since Aug. 5. Vaughn followed up a solo shot in the fourth with a rocket in the ninth. Julio, who blew two of his last three save opportunities, entered in relief of Rick Bauer (1-2) and Buddy Groom and left a 2-1 fastball over the heart of the plate to Vaughn. The ball easily cleared the left-field fence, breaking a 3-3 tie and putting the Devil Rays in line for the win.
"With stuff like Julio has, you just try to get one mistake," Vaughn said. "You try to get three quality swings, and it just happened to work out for me."
For Julio, the scene was eerily familiar. He served up a game-winning homer to Tampa Bay's Randy Winn last Saturday at Tropicana Field and another to Cleveland's Matt Lawton on Tuesday at Jacobs Field. And though he rebounded to record his eighth save Friday night, the 23-year-old continued to have trouble locating his slider last night, forcing him to rely too heavily on his fastball.
"The ball was right down the middle of the plate," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said of the 90-mph fastball that turned into Vaughn's second home run. "Jorge has been very good for us all year long, and I choose to believe the home runs he's given up are aberrations."
The Orioles nearly stormed back in the bottom of the ninth against Tampa Bay closer Esteban Yan. With one out, Gary Matthews Jr. homered to right to cut the lead to one run. Geronimo Gil singled up the middle, but pinch hitter Ryan McGuire struck out and Melvin Mora grounded into a force out to end the game.
Baltimore's Sidney Ponson has made nine starts this season, and amazingly four have come against Tampa Bay. More amazingly, he's yet to earn a win against the team with the worst record in baseball (he's 0-2 with a 5.92 ERA).
Despite leaving last night's game with the score tied, Ponson was lucky not to be in line for another loss. The Devil Rays racked up 10 hits in six innings but managed to score just three runs.
Of those 10 hits, only one went for extra bases, though it was a momentous shot in its own right: Vaughn's first homer of the game, off a 1-0 pitch from Ponson.
John Flaherty and Chris Gomez followed Vaughn's blast with singles, and following a force out, Brent Abernathy drove a runner in with a base hit to left. Ponson finally got out of the inning having thrown a whopping 31 pitches.
"I have no words to describe how I threw today," he said. "I'm not going to lie, it was embarrassing. I let my team down. To tell you the truth, I think I should get the loss."
Like their opponents, the Orioles had plenty of scoring opportunities but only converted a handful of them.
Paul Wilson, likewise making his fourth start of the year against the same opponent, was pounded in the early innings, just as he was last weekend at Tropicana Field. Last time, he surrendered three runs in the first inning only to follow with five shutout innings. This time he gave up three runs in the first three innings and then kept Baltimore off the scoreboard through the seventh.
"We just couldn't get the big hit to go over the hump," Hargrove said. "And it cost us."
Notes
One day after announcing David Segui will undergo surgery on his left wrist, the Orioles placed the injured designated hitter on the 15-day disabled list and purchased the contract of first baseman/outfielder McGuire.
McGuire, who has played in parts of five seasons with the Expos, Mets and Marlins, was hitting .298 with seven homers and 22 RBI at Class AAA Rochester. The Orioles plan to use him primarily as a left-handed pinch hitter, just as they did in the ninth inning last night.
Calvin Maduro suffered a slight hamstring strain covering first base during Friday night's 5-3 win over Tampa Bay, but the right-hander is fine and will not miss his next scheduled start.


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