Orioles Force Split

Instead of Roger Clemens going deep into the game on Thursday, the Baltimore Orioles took him deep. The Rocket allowed two homeruns in the first two innings as the O's and Sidney Ponson dealt the Yankees a 5-3 loss, splitting the two-game series at Yankee Stadium.

Ponson (14-5) tied Roy Halladay and Ramon Ortiz for the major-league lead in victories by picking up his fourth straight win. Ponson lasted 8 2/3 innings and allowed three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five. He was primed to finish the game on his own before Raul Mondesi's RBI double forced him from the game.

Jorge Julio came in to face Alfonso Soriano – the potential tying run – and got him to foul out to the catcher to end the game. The out earned Julio his 23rd save of the season.

Clemens got himself into trouble early. With two outs in the first, he hit Melvin Mora with a pitch and allowed a homerun to Jeff Conine that gave Baltimore a fast 2-0 lead. B.J. Surhoff connected on a solo homerun in the next inning as well.

In the fourth, Baltimore started firing balls all over the place. Surhoff led off with a single, followed by a Deivi Cruz base hit. After Brook Fordyce sacrificed to move both runners into scoring position, Brian Roberts singled to score both Surhoff and Cruz. Clemens finished the inning but didn't return to the game.

The Yankees drew closer in the sixth on Hideki Matsui and Robin Ventura RBI singles, but Ponson wouldn't allow anything else.

On the bright side for the Yankees, their bullpen was fantastic. Sterling Hitchcock, whose name has come up in a number of trade rumors, pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out five batters. Antonio Osuna finished the final 1 1/3 innings, also without allowing a run.

The Yankees next head out to Beantown for a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox. Pedro Martinez (7-2, 2.21) will start for the Sox; David Wells (12-3, 3.83) will take the mound for the Yankees. Game one is Friday at 7:05 pm.

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