Orioles win 5th straight, edge Brewers in 10th, 2-1 Relief inning nets Ballard first victory since May

September 24, 1990|By Kent Baker

The last time Jeff Ballard received credit for a victory, there was no crisis in the Persian Gulf, the Baltimore Orioles were in the pennant race and schoolchildren were on the brink of escape for the summer.

It was May 27 at Texas, and Ballard still was a starting pitcher trying to solve some problems after two off-season elbow operations.

But, yesterday, Ballard said, deadpan, "I had a big May and a big September."

The left-hander went one scoreless inning after a duel between teammate Ben McDonald and Teddy Higuera, collecting the victory in a 2-1, 10-inning game that produced the Orioles' fifth straight victory.

"This was a change," Ballard said. "It was one of the situations I've been in where I had a chance to get a victory. I told [Bob] Milacki I might be one of those rare pitchers who spends half a year in the 'pen and not get a win."

The Orioles provided the margin on Bob Melvin's sacrifice fly after Bill Ripken led off the 10th against Higuera with a double and stole third on a 3-2 strikeout pitch to Leo Gomez.

Melvin replaced Chris Hoiles behind the plate after Hoiles injured his throwing arm in the first inning.

"I was just trying to get the ball into the outfield," Melvin said, describing the hit, "but you kind of had to worry where you were hitting it. The wind was coming in, except to right and right-center. I hit it decently, but the ball started coming in."

Ripken arrived at home about the same time as Mike Felder's throw, which was high. Ripken went through B.J. Surhoff to the plate to give the Orioles a 5-1 homestand.

"I was going to slide through his legs, but, at the last minute, he went up the line," said Ripken. "He did what a catcher was supposed to do, so I went feetfirst, instead of sideways."

The Orioles had set up the run when manager Frank Robinson gave Ripken the go sign from second and the runner went on a breaking ball that was missed by Gomez.

"The thing is, they're not paying any attention to him [Ripken], and Teddy is a pretty slow guy to the plate once he starts," said Robinson. "Why not take advantage? We waited until we thought he could get a good jump."

In his first win at Memorial Stadium in more than a year, Ballard allowed a two-out single to Bill Spiers in the 10th, but escaped when Spiers was called out on an inning-ending force play on which umpire Ted Hendry had his back turned.

"It was close," said Ballard. "That was a big play out there."

Ballard said he expects to return to the rotation next year after an off-season of concentrated work.

"At this point, it doesn't matter whether you have one win or two," he said. "I had already been planning my arbitration proceeding. I wasn't even going to take my agent in there."

The Orioles couldn't get ahead for McDonald, leaving men on base in each of the first seven innings, including four in scoring position.

Robinson removed McDonald (who had his first no-decision in 13 starts) after 118 pitches and a struggle with the curveball. "It was enough at this time of the year," said the manager.

It was also the first start by the right-hander without a strikeout.

"I believe that's the first time that's ever happened to me," said McDonald. "I didn't really have good stuff, and the balls were so slick, I couldn't really grip the curveball.

"The fastball was doing things it wouldn't normally do, also. It was a weird day. I just tried to adjust."

He adjusted marvelously, holding the Brewers to a bases-empty homer by Greg Vaughn that was sliced into the right-field bleachers, perhaps slightly wind-aided.

McDonald was coming off one of only two poor starts (both against the Boston Red Sox), and said: "It's the law of averages. You're going to have those games every six or seven when you can't do anything right. I couldn't wait to get back out there."

Mike Devereaux homered to lead off the fifth against Higuera, who is 1-5 lifetime in Baltimore, despite three complete games in nine starts.

Higuera was in more trouble than McDonald along the way, because the Orioles starter received some strong defensive help from his infield corners, Gomez at third and David Segui at first, that squelched Milwaukee rallies seemingly before they had begun.

"I was shooting for 10 wins," said McDonald (7-5), whose season twice has been interrupted by injury. "But I knew things would have to go just right. I could have had a few more.

"But I'll take nine [he has two more starts]. I think that would be a real good year."

Orioles-Brewers scoring

Brewers second: Brock flied out to center. Vaughn homered to right. Hamilton grounded out to shortstop. Gantner flied out to left. Brewers 1, Orioles 0.

Orioles fifth: Devereaux homered to left. Anderson singled to center. Finley sacrificed to first, Anderson to second, Finley safe on fielder's choice. B.Ripken sacrificed to pitcher, Anderson to third, Finley to second. Gomez popped out to second. C.Ripken struck out. Orioles 1, Brewers 1.

Orioles 10th: B.Ripken doubled to left. Gomez struck out, B.Ripken stole third. C.Ripken intentionally walked. Melvin hit sacrifice fly to center, B.Ripken scored. Orioles 2, Brewers 1.

Caught stealing: None.

Strikeouts: Brewers-Deer; Orioles-Melvin 2, Finley 2, C.Ripken, Tettleton, Devereaux, Gomez.

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