Surhoff aggravates injury to left leg

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK - Orioles outfielder B.J. Surhoff left yesterday's game after aggravating the left quadriceps injury that forced him out of the lineup earlier this month. His status for tonight's game in Toronto is uncertain.

Surhoff hit his fourth home run of the season in the second inning and singled in the fourth before injuring himself running to first base in the fifth on a ball back to the pitcher.

With Surhoff hitting .337, the Orioles don't want to lose his bat again. He strained the leg muscle July 9 in Seattle and had a 10-day, six-game layoff, returning after the All-Star break.

"I actually thought it was getting a lot better," Surhoff said.

Surhoff is batting .481 (13-for-27) over his past seven games, and Orioles manager Mike Hargrove used him as his designated hitter yesterday against New York Yankees starter Roger Clemens.

David Segui is a career .368 hitter against Clemens, but Hargrove rode the hot hand with Surhoff, who came in batting .292 against Clemens with four home runs. Make it five now.

"[Clemens] left some balls in the middle of the plate," Surhoff said. "It's tough for anybody to pitch like that."

Hard times for Mora

Melvin Mora entered the series against the Yankees leading the American League with a .343 batting average, but he went 0-for-8, falling to .333.

Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners is leading the AL with a .340 average.

Mora is batting .136 (3-for-22) since the All-Star break, and it's been a rough week. On Sunday, Anaheim's John Lackey hit him in the left cheek with a fastball. He missed two games, and then Clemens hit him in the left hip in the first inning yesterday.

Mora walked gingerly to first base and then went hitless in his next four at-bats, grounding to short and striking out swinging three times.

"I'm just glad we're winning," Mora said.

Ponson ponders 20

By earning his 14th victory yesterday, Sidney Ponson needs six more to become the Orioles' first 20-game winner since Mike Boddicker in 1984.

"If it comes around, it comes around," Ponson said. "If I start thinking about [20 wins], it might affect the way I'm pitching."

Add Yankees hitters Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi to the list of opponents who are more impressed with Ponson this year.

"I think he's more of a pitcher than he used to be," Jeter said. "He used to rear back and throw fastballs. Now he's using more of his off-speed pitches. He still throws hard, but he's more of a pitcher than he was before."

Said Giambi: "He doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes. Up until the [ninth] inning, we really didn't get to him."

Thanks but no thanks

Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons tried endearing himself to the fans in Yankee Stadium's right-center-field bleachers Wednesday night. After catching a fly ball by Alfonso Soriano to end the third inning, Gibbons casually tossed the baseball into the stands.

Whoever caught the ball looked at it for a moment, and fired it back at Gibbons, to the delight of the fans sitting around him. It's a baseball custom for the fan who catches a visiting player's home run ball to throw it back onto the field in disgust. But it's not often they treat a goodwill gesture like this with such scorn.

"I did the same thing last year, and they threw it back at me," Gibbons said. "So I thought I would try it again, and they threw it right back again. They're so into the game here, and they love their team."

Minor league honors

Single-A Frederick infielder Gary Cates was named the Carolina League's Player of the Week after batting .565 with a home run and seven RBIs between July 10 and July 17. And Lorenzo Scott, the Orioles' 17th-round pick in this year's draft, was named the Gulf Coast League's Batter of the Week after hitting .480 with four doubles, a triple and six RBIs.

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