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O's end skid in big way, rip Rangers, 8-3


With the losing streak at 10 games, the Orioles weren't exactly picky about how it might end.

This is a team that had almost forgotten what it felt like to win, so Sidney Ponson's performance last night was merely an added bonus.

After missing four weeks with a right shoulder injury, Ponson pitched five solid innings, helping the Orioles stop their skid with an 8-3 victory over the Texas Rangers before 29,435 at Camden Yards.

Tony Batista hit his 28th home run, and the Orioles finally handed a lead to their bullpen, as they rolled to their first win since they defeated the To ronto Blue Jays on Aug. 23.

That victory 13 days ago returned the Orioles back to the .500 mark for the first time in 3M-= months, and all of a sudden, the team seemed to hit a wall.

The losing streak grew and grew until it reached 10 games, matching their longest drought since they opened the 1988 season with 21 consecutive defeats. They remained stuck on last year's win total before finally improving to 64-73 last night.

The Orioles tried not to make excuses during the streak, but they quietly pointed to an inexperienced team getting distracted by the threat of a potential players strike. That threat ended Friday, of course, but there were other factors.

Gary Matthews hasn't played since he felt tendinitis in his right wrist on Aug. 23. And until last night, Ponson hadn't pitched since Aug. 6.

Ponson (7-5) went on the disabled list with a torn labrum in the right shoulder, and after treating the injury with rest, he looked strong as ever last night. His fastball reached 95 mph on the radar gun, and he held the Rangers to two runs on three hits over five innings.

Quietly, Ponson has gone 4-1 with a 4.14 ERA since the All-Star break.

Some of the Orioles were surprised when they checked the lineup card and found the Rangers using starting pitcher Aaron Myette for the second consecutive night. Myette became the first major-league pitcher to start games on consecutive days since Oakland's Steve McCatty on April 14 and 15, 1980.

Myette (2-5) threw just two pitches before getting ejected from Tuesday's game, and the Orioles seemed happy to see him again. He lasted just three innings, walking six batters and allowing five runs.

With two outs in the first inning, Larry Bigbie delivered a run-scoring double to center field, giving the Orioles a lead they would never relinquish. During the streak, they had blown a lead in seven of the 10 losses, including a 6-0 lead one week ago tonight in Texas.

Before the game, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he wanted to give the struggling Jay Gibbons and Chris Richard each a night off, which gave Bigbie the chance to make his first start of the season.

Gibbons hit .125 during the streak, and Richard hit .189.

Bigbie went 2-for-4 with a walk before getting replaced by a pinch runner in the seventh inning.

After Bigbie's first-inning double, Myette walked Marty Cordova on four pitches to load the bases and then walked Chris Singleton, forcing home the Orioles' second run.

The Orioles made it 5-0 in the third, as Mike Bordick had a run-scoring single and Melvin Mora followed with a two-run triple that bounced high off the right-field scoreboard.

Ponson's only blemish came when Ivan Rodriguez hit a two- run homer with two outs in the fourth inning. That gave the Rangers at least one home run in 22 consecutive games, setting a franchise record.

But Ponson got through five innings on 91 pitches, exceeding the 75-pitch limit Hargrove had talked about before the game, and Rick Bauer pitched a scoreless sixth inning, making this a truly rare night.

It marked just the third time in the past 25 games, the Orioles took a lead into the seventh inning. That didn't happen once during the losing streak, which made their outstanding relief duo of Buddy Groom and Jorge Julio practically useless.

Singleton's run-scoring double made it 6-2 in the sixth inning, and Batista hit his two-run homer in the seventh. With 28 home runs, Batista tied the franchise record for a third baseman set by Brooks Robinson in 1964.

Groom pitched a scoreless eighth last night, but Julio looked rusty in a non-save situation. He doesn't have a save since Aug. 15, and he allowed his first home run since May 18, when Todd Greene led off the ninth with a shot to center.

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