WEEKEND: In third year, SkyDome has been around too long for O's


Toronto's SkyDome, which the Orioles visit for the first time this season tonight, is only 2 years old. For the Orioles, however, it has been around long enough to already hold a handful of bad memories.

The Orioles probably would like to forget their last visit to Toronto. Ninth-inning Blue Jay heroics foiled the Orioles on three consecutive days last September. On the 14th, Baltimore wasted a pinch-hit grand slam by Sam Horn, on the 15th Toronto's Kelly Gruber blasted a game-ending three-run home run off of Curt Schilling, and on the 16th, closer Gregg Olson gave up a game-winning hit to George Bell.

A further look back into Baltimore's SkyDome history only uncovers more bad news: in the two teams' last 10 games north of the border, Toronto has won five in its last at-bat.

Tonight (7:35, HTS) the Orioles, who have grown fond of falling behind early, making game-tying comebacks and then losing on dramatic home runs, will attempt to snap a five-game losing streak that started last Saturday against these same division-leading Blue Jays.

Jeff Robinson (3-5, 3.86 ERA) opposes Todd Stottlemyre (6-2, 3.33) tonight. Jeff Ballard (3-6, 4.15) meets rookie Juan Guzman (0-1, 7.71) tomorrow and Jose Mesa (4-7, 4.60) faces David Wells (7-4, 2.46) in the series finale Sunday. HTS will carry all three games.

That will be all the Orioles see of the Blue Jays until Aug. 26, when Toronto visits for a three-game set. The Orioles travel to Toronto the following week, but at least one Oriole, Cal Ripken Jr., should return to Toronto before then. The SkyDome plays host to this year's All-Star Game, to be held July 9. Ripken currently is the second-leding vote-getter in the AL behind Ken Griffey Jr.

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