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.
Catcher Geromino Gil hit a three-run homer in the second inning off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (4-5) 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 running into the bullpen fence. He needed four stitches above his right eye.
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. A team didn't panic.
"Brian is sorely missed, but we have guys who can fill in on short notice." Ponson said.
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, allowing 14 earned runs (16 total) in 16M-- innings. His last two starts resulted 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 while becoming 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.
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. Surhoff ran down Damon's fly ball on the warning track with none out, and Ponson got another out before walking David Ortiz and allowing a two-run single to Manny Ramirez.
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 man ager Terry Francona pulled him with the score 7-0.
Ponson receives the eighth- highest run support among AL pitchers, a perk that came in handy again last night.
Gil's homer, his second this season, came after manager Lee Mazzilli lowered him to ninth in the revamped lineup - changes made because of Roberts" injury. It followed a double by Chris Gomez, who replaced Roberts at second base.
Sosa hadn't homered since April 24 in Toronto, when he connected twice in a 7-1 victory. His only other homer in Boston was the first of his career, June 21, 1989, off Roger Clemens.
Francona stuck with Wake field until Melvin Mora's single in the sixth inning scored David Newhan for a 7-0 lead. Rafael Palmeiro and Surhoff had sacrifice flies in the ninth.
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)