- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

BALTIMORE — Sidney Ponson’s desire to beat New York was evident in his emphatic fist pump in the sixth inning.

The Baltimore starter had preserved his team’s one-run lead by retiring the side with two strikeouts, stranding a couple runners in scoring position and moving him that much closer to his first win ever over the Yankees.

An inning later, though, Ponson could only watch from the dugout as Ruben Sierra golfed an inside pitch from reliever B.J. Ryan for what proved to be the game-winning three-run homer in New York’s 6-5 victory over Baltimore last night in front of 38,618 at Camden Yards.

“I would have been in there if I would have done my job like I’m supposed to,” Ponson said. “I let everybody down basically. I wanted to pitch the seventh inning so bad. I did stupid mistakes today, and I paid for it.”



Ponson (10-5), who had won nine of his previous 11 starts, dropped to 0-4 lifetime against New York.

So far, home-cooking hasn’t done the Orioles any good. They have been on the losing end of the first four games of this season-long 10-game homestand. In all, Baltimore (35-45) has lost five straight and 18 of its past 25, falling a season-high 10 games below .500 and 16 games behind first-place New York in the AL East.

The Orioles had a chance in the ninth when Jay Gibbons scored on an error by left fielder Karim Garcia, but Deivi Cruz grounded out to end the game, stranding the tying run on third base.

“You get frustrated because you come so close,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. “You don’t necessarily try to sit here and make everything apple pie and goody-goody. We’ve got to find a way to break through and start coming out on the other end of it. And we’ll do that.”

Sitting pretty at that coveted “other end” are the Yankees (52-30), who closed out the month of June with a flourish. Since being no-hit by Houston on June 11, New York has won 16 of 18, including its current streak of eight in a row.

New York starter Andy Pettitte (9-6) wasn’t at his best last night, but the lanky left-hander still managed to last six innings and improve his career mark against the Orioles to 15-4.

“He didn’t look good tonight,” said Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose team won despite committing four errors. “He really had to work. He just hung in there and battled his way through a lot of pitches to get the win.”

Cruz drove one of Pettitte’s mistakes to left-center field, and he needed every inch of his 365-foot, two-run homer in the fourth inning to give the Orioles a 4-1 lead.

Cruz’s shot just cleared the 364 marker on the wall and bounced off the hands of a fan in the first row. Torre went out on the field to argue interference before returning to the dugout.

But against the Yankees, the American League’s top home run-hitting club, a 4-1 fifth inning lead is never safe. Garcia, the Yankees’ No. 9 hitter, crushed a two-run homer in the fifth to cut the deficit to 4-3. Garcia actually attempted to call a timeout before the pitch, but it wasn’t allowed.

“I heard him, and I tried to sneak a changeup by him, and he hit for a home run,” Ponson said.

Pettitte then got out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the bottom of the fifth by fielding B.J. Surhoff’s comeback grounder — albeit after a juggle — and getting the force at home before retiring the side one batter later.

The Orioles took advantage of a rare Yankees blunder to take a 2-1 lead in the third. With Brian Roberts on first, Luis Matos hit a potential inning-ending double play to Alfonso Soriano. Soriano tossed it to Derek Jeter, but the All-Star shortstop couldn’t corral the short throw despite having his off-hand behind his glove.

Both runners then took a base on uncontested steals before Roberts was driven in on an RBI groundout from Melvin Mora.

Mora was not expected to play because of a sore right hand but was cleared when his MRI yesterday showed no serious damage. He was in the starting lineup and didn’t wait long to contribute. Mora drove in Matos, who had tripled, with a sacrifice fly to tie the score at 1-1 in the first.

Ponson escaped the first inning with minimal damage after loading the bases with one out. Hideki Matsui, announced yesterday as the American League player of the week, drove in a run on a fielder’s choice grounder, and Jorge Posada grounded out to end the threat.

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