ARLINGTON, Texas -- Frank Robinson has seen Nolan Ryan enough to know that his record against the Orioles is more of a fluke than anything else.
"You're going to get one or two chances to get him," said the Orioles' manager. "You have to take advantage of those opportunities -- and you have to have a well-pitched game.
"We've been fortunate enough to do that against him in the past. We capitalized on our one chance against him," Robinson said of Sam Horn's three-run homer in the first inning yesterday, "but we didn't get a well-pitched game." When he got credit for the 15-3 win, Ryan broke a personal nine-game losing streak against the Orioles, dating back to 1976. The Orioles lost to the strikeout king for only the sixth time in 22 decisions. "I was lucky the first inning didn't cost us the ballgame," said Ryan, who breezed after the Rangers gave him a 4-3 lead to take into the second inning.
* WHERE WERE YOU TOM SHOPAY?: The way the Orioles have shuffled their lineup against Ryan over the years you'd think they never beat the K-master. Tom Shopay, who rarely played against anyone else, invariably made an appearance whenever Ryan pitched and Earl Weaver was the Orioles' manager.
Yesterday it was Robinson's turn to do his juggling act. He got every lefthanded hitter on his roster (five) into yesterday's lineup. Second baseman Juan Bell, a switch-hitter, and catcher Ernie Whitt made their first starts for the Orioles. Brady Anderson and Joe Orsulak made their second starts of the season (and series) in the outfield. The five lefthanded hitters were four more than the Orioles had in the lineup Opening Day against Chicago's Jack McDowell.
With the exception of Horn's three-run homer, the results were the same. And nobody had a tougher time than Whitt, who struck out four times, three times against Ryan. "It can only get better," the veteran catcher said with a wry grin. "He made me look like a little puppy dog."
Unfortunately it wasn't a new experience for Whitt. Asked how he had fared against Ryan in the past, he responded with one of those "wish you hadn't asked" answers.
"I went into the game 0-for-7, with seven strikeouts and came out of the game 0-for-10, with 10 strikeouts -- but two foul balls," said Whitt, who at least was able to retain his sense of humor.
* ONE MORE STEP FOR BEN: Ben McDonald has officially been assigned to the Orioles' extended spring training camp in Sarasota, Fla., where he will pitch in a game on Wednesday. If there are no complications, the righthander will be set to make his first start of the season a week from today, when the Orioles make their first appearance in the new Comiskey Park.
"He could be ready to go then," said Robinson, who won't make a commitment until after he gets a report on McDonald after Wednesday's game. "You always leave yourself an out in case something happens," said Robinson.
McDonald, who is on the disabled list because of a strained muscle in his elbow, threw on the side again yesterday and reported no pain. Pitching coach Al Jackson wants him to pitch five or six innings under game conditions before he joins the Orioles' rotation.
* THE DIFFERENCE A GAME MAKES: Each day the two major leagues issue a statistical sheet listing the leaders in 16 hitting and 12 pitching categories. Prior to Saturday night's 11-4 win over the Rangers, the Orioles did not get a call on the offensive sheet.
With two home runs, four hits and a career-high seven runs batted in Saturday, Cal Ripken Jr. joined the leader board in eight departments. It was the ninth two-homer game of his career. The only time Ripken was retired came on a 390-foot drive to left-centerfield.
* LIKE RIDING A BIKE: Dwight Evans, who hadn't played in the field for a year and a half prior to Opening Day, continues to give evidence he hasn't lost his Gold Glove touch. The rightfielder made two spectacular plays and just missed a third while sloshing in the drenched outfield Saturday night.
Evans saved a run with a diving catch of a fly ball hit by Ruben Sierra in the first inning; held Rafael Palmeiro to a single by making a diving, backhanded, half-hop stab of a line drive in the fifth; and then barely missed another diving catch on Steve Buechele in the sixth.
The Rangers finally got one past Evans when he got water-logged and couldn't get back in time to catch Julio Franco's line-drive double in the eighth.
* TV BLACKOUT: Starting this afternoon in Milwaukee, the Orioles play three straight non-televised games. That's as long as the Orioles will go this year without appearing on the tube.
* UPCOMING PROBABLES: Jose Mesa (0-1, 3.00) was scheduled to face Chris Bosio (1-0, 0.00) in Milwaukee's home opener this afternoon (2:35). Barring a postponement, tomorrow is an off day.
Dave Johnson (1-0, 0.00) goes against Jaime Navarro (0-0, 3.00) Wednesday night (7.05), with Jeff Ballard (1-1, 7.71) and Kevin Brown (1-0, 1.50) slated for Thursday afternoon (2.35).
* THIS 'N THAT: Yesterday marked the fifth time in as many games that the Rangers trailed before coming to bat. They were outscored 11-0 before their first at-bat on a five-game homestand.
Ryan (1-1) became the 12th pitcher in history to pitch 5,000 innings when he completed the third inning.
Brian Downing, who signed with the Rangers after a tryout period of two weeks, reached base eight times in 10 plate appearances in his first two games. His two-run homer off Paul Kilgus in the fourth inning yesterday gave the Rangers a 7-3 lead.
Palmeiro went 4-for-4 yesterday, and has hit safely in five straight games (11-21, .524).