CLEVELAND -- In his first start July 21, Ben McDonald pitched a four-hit, 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Memorial Stadium.
In the next-to-last start of his rookie season, McDonald repeated that performance, last night against the Cleveland Indians.
The eyes of the American League East were on Boston where bTC the Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-6, as they dueled for the division title, but McDonald, at cavernous Cleveland Stadium, offered another preview of renewed Orioles hopes for next season.
The victory moved the Orioles into a virtual tie for fourth place with the Indians, who came into their series a hot team, but have lost two straight.
It looked almost effortless for McDonald, who was never in trouble after a two-on jam in the fifth inning and retired the last 10 batters in order.
"They never come too easy," said manager Frank Robinson, "but he's capable of doing things like this. He has the ability to go out in the eighth and ninth, reach back a little bit and carry his stuff through."
McDonald said he was "all over the place" during the bullpen warmups and was "a little worried. But I settled down and although I got to 3-1 and 3-2 on a couple of batters, I was able to get the outs."
The Orioles provided all the offense he needed against Sergio Valdez, the victim of a run-scoring scratch single by Bill Ripken and his own two-base throwing error that accounted for the game's runs.
Both occurred on the same play in the second inning when Ripken hit a topper halfway down the third-base line. Valdez fielded the ball, then unwisely tried to make the out at first as Mike Devereaux, who had doubled and gone to third when Bob Melvin bounced out, scored.
The throw sailed over Brook Jacoby's head and Leo Gomez, who had walked, raced around from first to make it 2-0.
"I never felt real comfortable with just two runs," said McDonald. "The ball carries well here and [Sandy] Alomar and [Chris] James hit me good all night.
"I didn't feel real safe and I certainly didn't want to get anybody on ahead of them. But I did feel the only way I'd get beat was with a home run."
The Indians, batting .322 as a team in their previous 18 games, hit some balls deep, but the Orioles outfield trio of Steve Finley, Devereaux and Brady Anderson ran down everything easily.
Opponents are hitting .199 against McDonald, the second-lowest average against a starter in the American League to Nolan Ryan's .190.
"He knows now how to maintain the course," pitching coach Al Jackson said of McDonald. "He gets out of sync, but he has learned how to correct himself.
"In the middle innings, he has a tendency to fall asleep and just throw, but we told him about it and he picked up what to do right away. He's become a real good finishing pitcher."
Eight of the final 10 outs were on fly balls and McDonald did not have a strikeout after the sixth.
"A lot of it has to do with the defense" he said. "They chase balls down. They've done it all year."
It was only the fifth Orioles shutout of the season and McDonald has two of the three that have not been a combined effort. Bob Milacki has the third.
In McDonald's first, he threw only 86 pitches as the White Sox chased a lot of first offerings. Last night, it was 109.
"I was thinking about the similarity in the seventh inning," he said. "This time I struggled with my curveball a little. It wasn't as consistent, but I made some big pitches when I needed it."
It was his first start against the Cleveland, the team he had faced only in his major-league debut last year. The first batter he saw in the majors, Cory Snyder, rolled into a double play.
But McDonald's mind is now on the contending Blue Jays, his foe Wednesday in the final game of the season.
"I'd like nothing better than for Toronto to come there in a must win," he said. "This time we can upset them, knock them out of the race the way they got us last year."
The Orioles retained the chance to win the season series from the Indians. They trail, 6-5, with two games left.
The consecutive road victories are their first since Aug. 12-13.