While the Orioles continue to prosper in spite of Sammy Sosa’s weak first half, the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck wonders if things can get any worse for the former Cubs icon.

Sammy Sosa is back in familiar surroundings … back in one of the National League ballparks where he reigned not very long ago as one of the most dangerous hitters in the history of baseball.

Except that something is horribly wrong.

The old Sammy Sosa would be treating the mediocre Pittsburgh Pirates dismissively, with that certain swagger and maybe a few of his signature chest taps. Now, it’s the other way around.

How often have you seen anybody intentionally walked in front of Sammy with a close game hanging in the balance?

How often have you seen it happen two times in row? Maybe never … until the Pirates walked sizzling Miguel Tejada in back-to-back at-bats to get to Sosa.

“That’s a move you’ve got to make,” said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. “It sets up the double play.”

Yeah, right.

That’s only a move you’ve got to make when one of baseball’s greatest sluggers has been struggling to find his stroke for the first two months of the season. One big swing and the game is over, but obviously Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon wasn’t particularly worried about that.

Tejada is one of the hottest hitters in the major leagues, and he proved it again with a mammoth home run in the first inning. Sosa entered the game hitting just .200 with runners in scoring position and ended it batting .195 in those situations after striking out and flying out after the two intentional passes.

“I’ve played against him [McClendon] before,” Sosa said. “When he has a chance to do that, he’s going to do that.”

Which is true. McClendon is a big believer in the intentional pass, but not usually when the cleanup hitter – the guy with 579 career home runs – is standing menacingly in the on-deck circle.