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O's bash Red Sox, 9-3


BOSTON - Another day brought more injury news for the Orioles. That always seems to be the first order of business. They tally the wounded, make the necessary changes and march on, confident in their resolve, irritated by their run of bad luck.

Missing another regular in their lineup, the Orioles hit three home runs in the first three innings last night, including back-to-back shots by Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa in the third, and Sidney Ponson claimed a rare victory at Fenway Park, 9-3.

Geromino Gil hit a three-run homer in the second inning off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to give Ponson an early lead. Tejada struck the foul pole in left and Sosa followed with his 579th career blast.

"You don't want to keep testing it all the time, but they seem to answer the call," manager Lee Mazzilli said.

The Red Sox got their leadoff hitter back, but the Orioles (32-20) lost theirs. It sure felt like an omen.

Johnny Damon returned to Boston's lineup after leaving Tuesday's game with cuts and bruises on his face and a sore right knee, the result of his running into the bullpen fence. He needed four stitches.

The Orioles need a break. Their list of battered players growing at an alarming rate - Javy Lopez, Luis Matos and Larry Bigbie remain on the disabled list - they scratched Brian Roberts with a right rotator cuff strain.

Roberts missed only his second game this season. His 20-game hitting streak was put on hold. But the team didn't panic.

"Brian is sorely missed," Ponson said, "but we have guys who can fill in on short notice."

Playing with a sore left shoulder, Tejada also doubled three times and raised his average to .329. He aggravated the shoulder in the fifth inning by diving into home plate for the third time in the series, reaching around catcher Jason Varitek with his left hand to score on B.J. Surhoff's single and increase the Orioles' lead to 6-0.

Tejada slowly rose to his feet and walked to the dugout, determined not to become another injury statistic on a team that's losing count.

"I'm really impressed with this club," said Tejada, who had four extra-base hits for the second time in his career. "It's not just the guys who are stars."

Ponson (6-3) hadn't won since May 11, his previous two starts resulting in losses.

The odds favored another one.

Ponson was 2-9 with a 6.70 ERA in 16 career games against the Red Sox before last night, failing to win in Boston since September 2000. It was the worst active record for any pitcher against the Red Sox with a minimum of 10 decisions.

Now 2-4 at Fenway Park, Ponson made good use of his slider and became the first six-game winner on the staff. He didn't allow an earned run and doubled his win total from the first half of last season.

"Geronimo said his ball was cutting real late, just when it got to the plate," Mazzilli said. "He threw a real good game."

The Red Sox loaded the bases three times in the seventh, Tejada's throwing error contributing to the mess, and scored three runs to send Ponson to the bench. Steve Kline walked pinch hitter Jay Payton to fill the bases again, but Todd Williams induced a ground ball from reserve catcher Kelly Shoppach, who moved behind the plate in the seventh, with the count full.

Varitek is batting .311, but manager Terry Francona pulled him with the score 7-0.

"Believe me, I'm aware of the situation Shop came up in," Francona said. "I'm aware."

Gil's homer, his second this season, followed a double by Chris Gomez, who replaced Roberts in the lineup.

"I think we have better depth than we've had in the past," executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "There's a good mix of veterans, and a couple young guys who keep the excitement going. Not that we really need it with Miggy around."

Sosa hadn't homered since April 24 in Toronto. His only other homer in Boston also was the first of his career, June 21, 1989, off Roger Clemens. "Of course I remember it," Sosa said. "That was a long time ago."

Francona stuck with Wakefield (4-5) until Melvin Mora's RBI single in the sixth inning for a 7-0 lead. Rafael Palmeiro and Surhoff had sacrifice flies in the ninth after Matt Mantei loaded the bases with none out.

Orioles today

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site, time: Fenway Park, Boston, 1:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Hayden Penn (0-0, 1.93) vs. Red Sox's Matt Clement (6-0, 3.06)

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