- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2003

SEATTLE — After flying high through June, the Seattle Mariners have slowed considerably.

Sidney Ponson threw 89 pitches in his fourth complete game of the season, and Luis Matos and David Segui homered as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Mariners 4-1 on Thursday night. Ponson (12-5) threw a seven-hitter to win for the 11th time in his last 14 starts.

“He was absolutely golden,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. “I don’t know if Sidney has ever been any better. In the last month, he’s been absolutely outstanding, and we’ve been scoring runs for him.”

Ponson ranks third in the American League, throwing all of Baltimore’s complete games this season. He struck out six and walked one, and he’s arguably pitching as well as anyone in the league. He was snubbed, though, for next week’s All-Star game.

“I’ll get six days of rest,” Ponson said. “It’s going to be well-needed. I’ve said all along that if I’m not picked, I’m not picked. I’ll find something else to do. If they call tomorrow, they can forget about it.”

The Orioles won a series at Safeco Field for the first time. They are 3-16 there since the Seattle ballpark opened in mid-1999.

The Mariners, meanwhile, have lost five of seven, and manager Bob Melvin shuffled the lineup in the hope that it would spark the offense. But after sending six batters to the plate in the first, Seattle got only one runner to second.

“I switched my Sharpie colors and put new candy out there, the whole bit,” Melvin said. “It just didn’t work out, but it will. We will get through this.”

The Mariners have struggled in their last three series. They split a four-game visit to Oakland earlier this month. But take away a 13-0 victory where they collected 20 hits, and Seattle lost two of three against the Athletics and hit .248.

The Mariners went to Texas after that, outscoring the Rangers 14-7 but losing two of three and hitting .220.

Then the Mariners came home, where they hit .311 and outscored the Orioles 16-9 but lost two of three. One night after Seattle lost 7-2 for Ryan Franklin’s fourth straight defeat, they couldn’t produce runs for Freddy Garcia (9-8).

“We haven’t been hitting that bad,” Mike Cameron said. “We just haven’t been getting the hits when we need them.”

Garcia, who won six straight starts from May27 to June29, lost for the second straight time. He pitched into the eighth inning, allowing three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and no walks.

“We haven’t been hitting well lately, but you’ve still got to go pitch,” Garcia said. “When your team gets into a slump, you’ve still got to go pitch.”

Garcia’s loss denied the Mariners’ bid to have four 10-game winners before the All-Star break for the first time. Seattle missed a chance to become the fifth team in history to accomplish that feat.

The Mariners built an early 1-0 lead shortly after Ichiro Suzuki singled on Ponson’s first pitch of the game. Baltimore tied it in the fifth when Matos hit a solo home run to left, driving a 1-1 pitch into the Seattle bullpen.

Segui put Baltimore ahead 2-1 in the sixth. Garcia left a slider high on an 0-2 pitch, and Segui curled it into the stands in right for his first homer since May11.

Notes — Seattle second baseman Bret Boone committed his second error in the past six games. He has only three all season. … The Orioles are 11-4 against AL West teams but 25-30 against the rest of the league. … Seattle is 3-6 against the AL East, 24-6 against the AL Central and 19-14 against the AL West. … The Mariners lost consecutive series for the first time all season, the last team in baseball to do so.

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