ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In a major development last night, Cal Ripken didn't get a hit and neither did Charles Johnson nor Albert Belle. No matter. The suddenly unstoppable Orioles extended their season-high winning streak to 10 with a 6-3 decision over the Anaheim Angels that lifted their record to 71-76 and rewarded starting pitcher Sidney Ponson with his first win in five weeks.
The 10-game streak is the Orioles' longest since June 2-12, 1993.
His seven-game hitting streak now history, Ripken failed to close on 3,000 hits and has 15 games in which to find the 13 hits he needs.
Belle's 15-game hitting streak was a casualty despite two early RBIs. Needing a hit in his first at-bat, Johnson was denied in his bid to tie Ken Singleton's 18-year club record of 10 straight hits.
However, Ponson (12-11) and his four relievers were able to stifle the Angels on eight hits. Ponson stranded five runners the first three innings while the Orioles built a 4-2 lead against scatter-armed Angels starter Brian Cooper (1-1) and capped their scoring with B.J. Surhoff's 28th home run in the ninth inning. Mike Timlin closed for his 23rd save.
Now 35-25 since the All-Star break, the Orioles have managed to stave off mathematical elimination from the postseason thanks to their rush. Their stay of execution will likely end today as either a Boston Red Sox win or their own loss will end the drama.
The Orioles took a 2-0 first-inning lead without benefit of a hit. Cooper spent four hitters trying to locate the plate as he forced home a run by hitting Brady Anderson, walking Mike Bordick and Surhoff, then hitting Belle. Jeff Conine's sacrifice fly scored Bordick.
Ponson answered with a convincing impersonation of Cooper.
Angels left fielder Darin Erstad led off the home first with a double, Jim Edmonds walked and Mo Vaughn singled to load the bases with none out. The predicament drew manager Ray Miller out of the dugout for a visit. Ponson responded by hitting Troy Glaus to force home a run before escaping with three consecutive outs, the last two on called third strikes.
Ponson was met at the far end of the dugout by Miller as he left the field. Miller offered encouraging words but Ponson's mannerisms seemed to mimic those that moved the manager to skip his turn earlier this month.
Afterward, Miller chose to praise his young pitcher.
"I like the way he kept control of things," said Miller. "He could've really blown up."
The Orioles manufactured a 3-1 lead in the third inning thanks to Bordick, who quietly has constructed a career high in stolen bases. Bordick pressed his leadoff single with his 14th steal and took third when catcher Bret Hemphill's throw went into center field.
Again Belle produced without needing a hit. He sent a one-hop smash that third baseman Glaus backhanded. Bordick broke on contact. Glaus' attempt to catch him at the plate sailed wide, leaving Belle with a fielder's choice and a second RBI.
The Angels again responded quickly when Todd Greene dumped a two-out single to score Edmonds for a 3-2 game.
In the fifth, the Orioles again scored without an RBI hit. Johnson, whose streak of nine consecutive hits ended in his previous at-bat, walked to begin the inning. (Johnson would walk his next two times up as well, enabling him to reach 13 times in 14 plate appearances.) Anderson doubled. With one out against a relaxed infield, Surhoff grounded to second base to score Johnson for a 4-2 lead.
From there, Ponson toughened. The Angels sent only 11 hitters to the plate the next three innings. Ponson fell victim to his 87-pitch count in the seventh when he was relieved by Jesse Orosco following Erstad's leadoff triple.
Vaughn's third single scored Erstad with one out, drawing the Angels to within 4-3 and causing Miller to summon rookie Gabe Molina.
Molina walked the tying run into scoring position but was allowed to face right fielder Garret Anderson, whom he struck out looking, and Greene, who popped to first on Molina's first pitch.
Molina's stand and Anderson's RBI single to create a 5-3 lead in the eighth averted a second consecutive blown save behind Ponson, who had not won in six starts since Aug. 10 at Tampa Bay.
"I've had a pretty good year," said the 22-year-old Ponson. "Coming into the season I had one goal -- to get 200 innings. I've got that. I didn't set a goal for wins because you really can't control wins and losses. If you pitch really well you can. I'm a little bit worn down now, but I've got three more starts. If I can win two of those and get seven innings in every time, I think that would be a good way to finish."
Opponent: Anaheim Angels
Site: Edison International Field, Anaheim, Calif.
Time: 8: 05 TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (16-7, 3.65) vs. Angels' Mike Fyhrie (0-4, 5.15)