- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

TORONTO (AP) — Sidney Ponson and the Baltimore Orioles have put their poor first half behind them.

Ponson and three relievers combined on a five-hitter, leading the Orioles over the Toronto Blue Jays 4-0 last night, their 10th win in 11 games.

Ponson (8-12) is 5-0 in his last six starts after losing nine straight. Signed to a $22.5 million, three-year contract in the offseason, Ponson was 3-12 with a 6.29 ERA on July 4 after losing his ninth straight start. His ERA is down to 5.47.

“I’ve had a good second half and a really bad first half,” said Ponson, whose team is 19-10 since the All-Star break, moving them within two games of .500 (56-58)

Ponson allowed five hits, while striking out six and walking one in six-plus innings. He threw just 78 pitches. He said he was shocked manager Lee Mazzilli took him out early, but he understood why. The Orioles didn’t arrive to their hotel until 4 a.m. after flying in from Los Angeles.

“The manager is the manager. He did the right moves today,” Ponson said.

Toronto’s Vernon Wells chased Ponson with a leadoff double in the seventh, but B.J. Ryan escaped the jam as Carlos Delgado flew out and Frank Menechino and Eric Hinske struck out.

Jason Grimsley pitched a perfect eighth, and Jorge Julio worked the ninth to complete Baltimore’s fifth shutout of the season.

“The last week has been amazing. We come to the park knowing we’re going to win,” Ponson said. “Everybody is more relaxed. Everyone is having fun.”

The Blue Jays have lost four straight and nine of 10 to fall 20 games below .500 (48-68) for the first time since Aug. 23, 2002. They’re 1-4 since manager John Gibbons replaced Carlos Tosca last Sunday.

Toronto has been shut out 11 times this season, the most in the AL.

“The was like the old Ponson when he had that good run last year,” Gibbons said. “He was dominating, but so was [Miguel] Batista.”

The Blue Jays grounded into three of the games five double plays.

Blue Jays starter Batista (9-8) pitched six scoreless innings before Baltimore scored twice in the seventh.

Brian Roberts hit an RBI ground-rule double after Jerry Hairston walked with one out in the seventh. David Newhan followed with an RBI single, giving Baltimore a 2-0 lead.

The Orioles added two runs in the ninth on Melvin Mora’s RBI grounder and Javy Lopez’s run-scoring single.

Batista allowed two runs on seven hits in 6 1-3 innings.

Notes — The Blue Jays have scored three runs or less in 57 games this season. They are 8-49 in those games. … Ponson is 3-1 with a 1.15 ERA in five career starts at SkyDome. … Toronto’s Hinske ended a 0-for-15 slump with a single in the seventh. … Baltimore’s Kurt Ainsworth allowed one run on two hits 32/3 innings in a rehab start at Class A Aberdeen. Ainsworth underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in July.

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