- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

BALTIMORE There was a great pitching duel last night at Camden Yards. Too bad so few were there to see it.

The smallest crowd in the ballpark's 11-season history showed up to see a battle for third place in the American League East between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles.

Only 20,279 saw Blue Jays right-hander Pete Walker three-hit the Orioles over seven innings. Orioles starter Sidney Ponson pitched a fine complete game, but Walker silenced the Orioles' bats, as the Blue Jays won 2-0 in the first of a four-game series.

Walker (9-4) threw 106 pitches, including 64 strikes. He struck out four and walked two. Blue Jays right-hander Cliff Politte pitched the eighth inning and retired the Orioles in order. Kelvim Escobar came on in the ninth and recorded his 34th save.

The smallest previous crowd to watch an Orioles game, 21,748, was for a weekday makeup against the Texas Rangers on June 20, 1996.

Ponson deserved better in his third complete game of the season and second in a row all losses. The right-hander scattered six hits and allowed two runs, struck out four and walked two. He threw 115 pitches, 78 for strikes.

"Sidney was outstanding tonight," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "He didn't throw a lot of four-seam fastballs, he threw a lot of two-seam fastballs, a lot of sliders and had a good changeup. If Sidney pitches the rest of his career and gives up two runs and pitches a complete game, Sidney is going to do a lot of good in this game."

Ponson (7-7, 3.93 ERA) made his third start since returning from the disabled list at the beginning of the month. The 25-year-old Aruban was placed on the DL Aug.9 with inflammation of his right shoulder and was activated when rosters expanded Sept.1.

In his first start of the season against the Blue Jays, Ponson was in cruise control early. He allowed just two hits over the first five innings; he retired the side in the first, third, seventh and eighth innings.

Ponson showed a pretty good glove, along with a wicked changeup, in the fifth inning. With runners at the corners and one out, Toronto catcher Ken Huckaby ripped a liner back to the mound. With only a fraction of a second to react and protect himself, Ponson stuck his glove down and caught Huckaby's shot off his left thigh. Blue Jays second baseman Orlando Hudson left first base was running, and Ponson lobbed the ball to first to complete the double play.

The Blue Jays got their first run in the sixth when Ponson retired the first two batters but then gave up three consecutive singles. Vernon Wells, who broke an 0-for-26 slump, started with a single to center. Wells moved to third on Carlos Delgado's single to center, and designated hitter Josh Phelps drove in Wells with a hard single past third baseman Tony Batista that made it 1-0.

Phelps struck again in the ninth when he hit a solo home run off Ponson with one out, his 15th of the season. He caught a Ponson fastball on the outside corner of the plate and drove it 377 feet into the center field bleachers for a 2-0 lead.

"August and September are the best months I've pitched in the big leagues so far," Ponson said. "I'm throwing the ball real good right now. I don't know how long it is going to last."

Note The Orioles called up southpaw reliever Eric DuBose from Class AA Bowie yesterday, with left-hander Yorkis Perez (appendectomy surgery) going on the 60-day DL. With Bowie, DuBose went 5-3 with three saves and a 2.51 ERA in 41 relief appearances.

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