- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

BALTIMORE There was something very matter-of-fact about the Baltimore Orioles' 6-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals last night, as if everyone in attendance at Camden Yards already knew what the outcome would be long before the game started.
There just wasn't much life inside the ballpark, perhaps due to the announced crowd of 25,748 that appeared to be significantly smaller, perhaps due to the fact that the Orioles' opponent is one of the least interesting teams in baseball at the moment.
Those who missed last night's speedy 2-hour, 11-minute game whether because of the opponent, the potential for bad weather or plain apathy missed out on another well-played, all-around effort from an Orioles club that is proving to be at the very least a notch above several American League teams.
The victory highlighted by another strong pitching performance by Sidney Ponson and a trio of home runs that staked Ponson to an early four-run lead was Baltimore's fourth in as many games against the fast-fading Royals. It also was the Orioles' ninth in their last 13 games and seventh of the season against losing opponents.
"It's always nice to start a game 4-0," Ponson said. "I think it relaxes the pitcher more. You don't have the pressure not to make mistakes and let the other team go up. I've been on both sides of it, and I know these guys behind me are working really hard. That's the only thing I can ask."
Aside from the previous two nights in Boston, the Orioles (13-15) have played good baseball over the last two weeks. And if they should happen to pull off a four-game sweep of the Royals this weekend, they'll have themselves a winning record, not bad for a team that entered the season with expectations as low as they've been in more than a decade.
Too bad the fans in Baltimore haven't taken notice. For the fifth time in their last six home games, the Orioles failed to draw 30,000 fans, and that streak figures to continue through the weekend.
Of course, they've played at home only four times in the last 22 days, so perhaps local interest will begin to perk up by the end of their current seven-game homestand.
For now, the Orioles will just let their performance on the field speak for itself. And no one has spoken louder over the past couple of weeks than Ponson, the once-troubled right-hander who has now won his past two starts.
The albatross of his 14-start winless streak behind him (having beaten the same Royals last weekend in Kansas City), Ponson authored another fine outing last night, scattering one run and six hits over seven innings.
Ponson (2-2) was perfect through three innings before finally surrendering a single to Chuck Knoblauch in the fourth. The Royals (who have been outscored by the Orioles 38-11 in their four meetings this year) still didn't manage to dent the scoreboard until Carlos Beltran singled in Carlos Febles with two outs in the sixth, at which time Baltimore already held a comfortable four-run lead.
"For a little bit, I thought he might have had a no-hitter in him," manager Mike Hargrove said. "You start kind of toying with the idea once you get past the third. They hit some balls hard, but we made some plays on them, and usually those games follow that path."
Ponson finished his evening with a perfect seventh, extending his stretch of solid pitching to four straight starts, dating back to a no-decision at Yankee Stadium on April 16.
In that outing (and his next, a 2-1 loss at Tampa Bay on April 21), Ponson's teammates failed to offer much run support. But last night, they supplied enough juice (six runs on eight hits) to make him a winner. David Segui, Tony Batista and Jeff Conine all homered off Kansas City starter Paul Byrd, who lost for the second time against the Orioles after four straight wins to open the season.
"Paul is kind of funky," Hargrove said. "He's got that different delivery and throws from all angles, changes speeds and understands what he needs to do to get hitters out. We were just fortunate the first few innings that he hung some and we got a hold of them."
Segui padded the lead with a two-run double in the eighth, paving the way for rookie right-hander Rick Bauer (who entered with a two-run lead) to earn his first career save.

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