The Baltimore Orioles appeared headed toward .500 a short time ago. A pair of costly injuries and three straight losses have made that goal look elusive.
Baltimore hopes to move a step closer to the break-even mark when it opens a three-game series against the last-place Toronto Blue Jays.
An 11-7 victory at Toronto on Sunday was Baltimore’s 11th win in 13 tries and pulled it within two games of .500. The surge also kept the Orioles’ slim playoff hopes alive as they remained on the fringe of the wild-card race.
Three straight losses to Oakland, however, left the Orioles five games under .500 and likely ended any chance they had at making the postseason.
“I didn’t have command of any of my pitches,” Ponson said. “It’s frustrating. Those guys gave me four runs, we should have beat this team. But they found a way to beat us.”
Before the game, the Orioles placed center fielder Jerry Hairston and left fielder Larry Bigbie on the disabled list.
Hairston, who had been doing an excellent job making the switch from second base to the outfield, will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle.
“That’s basically my season,” Hairston said. “It’s a freak thing. I am frustrated because I was just starting to have fun.”
Bigbie, suffering from a strained right groin, is expected to miss at least a week.
“Bigbie’s not ready to go,” Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. “It is a setback, when you lose two guys like that, your center fielder and your left fielder. We’re going to have to mix and match and do the things that you can.”
Hairston is the second Orioles center fielder to suffer a season-ending injury, joining Luis Matos, who is out for the year with a fractured right shin.
Toronto dropped a season-high 23 games under .500 with a 6-4 loss at Boston Wednesday.
The loss was the 13th in 15 games for the Blue Jays, who are 2-8 under new manager John Gibbons.
“We’re in that rut, and I keep wondering when we’re going to come out of it. I believe we will, but it hasn’t been easy,” Gibbons said. “What can you do? I thought we played the game the right way and gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
Toronto needs to win 14 of its final 41 games to avoid its first 100-loss season since 1979, the franchise’s third year in the league.
STANDINGS (through Aug. 18): Blue Jays - 5th place, 27 GB, AL East. Orioles - 3rd place, 18 GB, AL East.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Towers (8-4, 4.46 ERA). Towers struggled in his first two starts this season against his former team, but limited the Orioles to two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 7-2 victory Saturday. The right-hander has won six of his last seven starts while allowing two runs or fewer five times during that span. Towers, who appeared in 29 games for Baltimore from 2001-02, is 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Dave Borkowski (3-3, 3.80 ERA). After pitching effectively in three straight starts, Borkowski was roughed up for four runs and eight hits through four innings in a 7-2 loss at Toronto on Saturday. The right-hander has pitched very well at home this season, going 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in five games, including four starts. Borkowski is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in three career games against the Blue Jays.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Blue Jays - Vernon Wells, .285 avg. and 54 runs; Carlos Delgado, 19 HRs and 60 RBIs; Eric Hinske, 9 SBs. Orioles - Melvin Mora, .344 avg. and 85 runs; Miguel Tejada, 23 HRs and 108 RBIs; Brian Roberts, 26 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Orioles, 6-3.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Blue Jays - OF Frank Catalanotto is hitless in his last 16 at-bats. … 2B Orlando Hudson has seven multihit games in his last nine starts. … Toronto is 21-10 at Camden Yards since the start of the 2001 season. Orioles - With a lack depth in the outfield, Val Majewski was recalled from Double-A Bowie and could make his major league debut Friday. … RF Jay Gibbons is 3-for-21 (.143) with two RBIs since coming off the disabled list. … SS Tejada and C Javy Lopez are hitting .094 (3-for-32) against Towers.
INJURIES: Blue Jays - LHP Valerio De Los Santos (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Roy Halladay (shoulder), 15-day DL; C Bobby Estalella (ankle), 60-day DL; C Greg Myers (ankle), 60-day DL. Orioles - OF Hairston (ankle), 15-day DL; OF Bigbie (groin), 15-day DL; CF Matos (shin), 15-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (shoulder), 60-day DL; LHP Eric DuBose (elbow), 60-day DL; DH-1B Segui (knee), 60-day DL.