ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Baltimore Orioles had another small night at the plate, but the return of the real Ben McDonald made the struggling offense a non-issue.
McDonald rebounded from a pair of disappointing performances pitch six shutout innings last night for his first victory of 1991, as the Orioles defeated the California Angels, 2-0, before 37,085 at Anaheim Stadium.
The Angels managed just two singles off McDonald, who was removed after throwing 78 pitches in his longest outing of the season. The Orioles had only two hits that made any difference -- bases-empty home runs by Mike Devereaux and Sam Horn that sent Angels starter Kirk McCaskill to his third loss in five decisions.
Devereaux had four of his team's 10 hits, three for extra bases, but the Orioles scored three runs or fewer for the fourth straight game. They have won the past two with great pitching and defense, not to mention a number of strong performances out of the bullpen.
Relievers Mark Williamson, Mike Flanagan and Gregg Olson complemented a strong performance by Jose Mesa in Wednesday night's 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, and the same three followed McDonald last night. Olson pitched the ninth for his fourth save in four save opportunities.
Orioles manager Frank Robinson was saying just the other day that his club needed one good run through the rotation to pull out of a lengthy slump. Suddenly, he's halfway there.
It took McDonald a couple of batters to get oriented, but it didn' take him long to get back on top of his game after two mediocre performances sent his ERA to 12.27.
He walked Luis Polonia to open the Angels' half of the first and gave up a sharp single to second baseman Luis Sojo but was bailed out of a potentially damaging situation by either right fielder Joe Orsulak or third-base umpire Durwood Merrill. It depends on who you talk to.
Orsulak had to range toward the right-field line to backhand Sojo's single, then spun around and threw a perfect strike that reached third base at about the same time as Polonia. Merrill ruled that the ball got there first. Angels manager Doug Rader argued that the tag was late, but he always seems to be on the wrong end of the argument when the Orioles are involved.
McDonald got out of trouble and did not give up another hit until Sojo's single with two out in the sixth inning. McDonald gave up 10 earned runs and 15 hits in his first 7 1/3 innings this year.
"When Joe got me out of that jam, it was a real confidence builder," McDonald said. "I was able to go out and get some outs after that. Each time out, I've felt more comfortable. I felt much better tonight. I felt like I got in a groove tonight."
He was coming off a 2 2/3 -inning performance against the Milwaukee Brewers in which he gave up nine hits, and that was considered an improvement over his 1991 debut against the Chicago White Sox.
None of that seemed relevant once McDonald turned on the heat. He walked Polonia again in the third, but that was the only runner he allowed in a string of 16 hitless at-bats.
"I knew why he hadn't been pitching well," manager Frank Robinson said. "When you send a guy out there who isn't physically and mentally ready, you just have to hope that he can give you five or six innings, but you have to expect him to have some trouble in the first one or two starts.
"The more he goes out there and the more he pitches, the better he'll be. But I didn't have any idea he would do what he did tonight."
The Orioles took the lead in the third inning and probably brought back some unhappy memories for Rader in the process. Mike Devereaux drove a long fly ball off the foul pole in left field for his third home run of the season, but Rader probably will remember him best for a sudden-death home run at Memorial Stadium in 1989 that appeared to pass the left-field foul pole on the wrong side.
Umpire Jim Joyce ruled it fair, and the two-run shot broke a 9-9 tie in the bottom of the ninth. Rader was still arguing that call a day later and was ejected during the exchange of lineup cards.
Devereaux hit the ball hard every time last night. He drove center fielder Junior Felix to the fence for a long fly ball in the first inning. He led off the third with the home run and doubled in each of his next two at-bats -- the second driving McCaskill out of the game. He also singled in the ninth to complete the second four-hit game of his career.
Devereaux hasn't been a classic leadoff hitter. Ten of his 15 hits have been for extra bases, leaving him with a hefty .525 slugging percentage and a .246 batting average.
The Orioles had hoped that he would be patient enough to be a consistent on-base threat, but coming into the game, his on-base percentage ranked 10th on the club.
Even Horn came into the game with a significantly higher on-base percentage, though Devereaux overtook him with his 4-for-5 performance.
Horn continues to strike out in about half of his at-bats, but h padded the slim lead in the sixth inning with a 418-foot home run into the center-field bleachers. It was the fourth homer of the year for Horn, who ranks second to Cal Ripken in homers and RBI (11).
Orioles-Angels scoring Orioles third: B.Ripken grounded out to first. Devereaux homered left. Anderson grounded out to pitcher. C.Ripken singled to shortstop. Orsulak singled to center, C.Ripken to third. Horn popped out to third. Orioles 1, Angels 0.
Orioles sixth: Horn homered to center. Milligan grounded out to shortstop. Worthington grounded out to shortstop. Whitt flied out to center. Orioles 2, Angels 0.
Caught stealing: Angels-Felix.
Strikeouts: Orioles-Horn, C.Ripken, B.Ripken; Angels-Felix 2, Winfield 2, Polonia, Parker.