- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

BALTIMORE — Sidney Ponson hung around long enough for his Baltimore Orioles teammates to get him another win.

Jeff Conine had a pair of two-out RBI singles, including the go-ahead run in the eighth, and Ponson threw eight solid innings as the Orioles rallied for a 5-4 defeat of the Texas Rangers yesterday before 38,536 at Camden Yards.

Baltimore (28-27) is over .500 for the first time since May9, when it was 18-17. The Orioles also finished their homestand 5-1, have won nine of their last 11 and are within 4 games of New York in the AL East.

“Last time I checked we still have 100 games to play,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. “That’s a lot of baseball.”

Ponson (7-3) matched his win total from a year ago, scattering seven hits and three walks over eight innings to improve to 6-1 in his last seven starts. He has lasted at least six innings in 10 straight starts and pitched at least seven innings in three of his last six outings.

“Just look at the numbers,” Ponson said. “I had a lot of quality starts that I lost last year. This year, I don’t have that many quality starts, but I’m getting wins. That speaks for itself.”

Ponson ran into some trouble in the seventh. Carl Everett bounced a one-out grounder to third, where Tony Batista had to rush toward the bag to make a play. He then made an off-balance throw wide of first, but Conine caught it and appeared to tag Everett. However, umpire Jeff Kellogg had a bad angle and ruled him safe.

The call became significant. Ponson fanned Hank Blalock for the second out, but Alex Rodriguez nailed a Ponson slider just over the wall in left-center for his 16th home run of the year to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Ponson stuck around, though, retiring Rafael Palmeiro to end the seventh before needing just 11 pitches to finish the eighth.

“Last year, I probably would have thrown a fit,” the 26-year-old Ponson said. “I’m not doing it this year. I’m just going to be relaxed.”

Baltimore then rallied against Rangers reliever Francisco Cordero (2-5). Deivi Cruz reached on a single to open the eighth and advanced to second on Brook Fordyce’s sacrifice. After Melvin Mora walked, B.J. Surhoff hit a grounder to Blalock. The Texas third baseman failed to beat Cruz to the bag, then made a wild throw that skipped past first baseman Mark Teixeira and allowed Cruz to score the tying run. Conine then singled to center to put the Orioles ahead 5-4.

Jorge Julio pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save.

“We were able to make the hits we got count,” said Hargrove, whose team reached double figures in hits for the 12th time in 13 games. “We ran the bases aggressively, and it paid off for us.”

The Orioles took the initial lead in the third on Conine’s RBI single. The Rangers answered with two runs in the fourth, but the Orioles tied it on Cruz’s bat-shattering single to left in the fourth.

Baltimore reclaimed the lead two innings later when Mora golfed starter Colby Lewis’ fastball into the left-field seats for his eighth home run. Mora also extended his career-long hitting streak to 14 games.

Notes — Surhoff drew his first start since being activated from the disabled list Wednesday and went 2-for-5. … David Segui, the usual designated hitter, was given an extra day off before the Orioles begin interleague play tomorrow. Segui has yet to play the field this season but is expected to see some time at first base during the team’s trip to Houston and St. Louis. … Center fielder Luis Matos has hit in all nine games since his callup and is hitting .500 (18-for-36).

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