BOSTON -- The managerial style of John Oates borders o the unconventional at times, but no one could argue with the results after the Baltimore Orioles scored a 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox yesterday.
He pulled right-hander Bob Milacki out of a one-hitter and replaced him with a reliever whose ERA was 10.80. No problem. Kevin Hickey got Mike Greenwell to line out to left, and the Orioles escaped from a sixth-inning jam.
Oates paraded three more relievers to the mound, and the Orioles went on to clinch a split of the four-game series at Fenway Park. Their luck has taken a definite turn. The club finally is moving in the right direction, even if Roger Clemens figures to throw them for a loss today.
Mike Devereaux's seventh home run broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning, and substitute third baseman Tim Hulett made a game-saving play in the eighth, as the Orioles won for the fourth time in their past five games.
Milacki gave up just one hit in 5 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the year, but Hickey was credited with the victory for retiring just one batter. Gregg Olson recorded his eighth save for pitching the final 1 1/3 innings.
Oates set himself up for a colossal second-guess when he sent Hickey into the game with runners at first and second in the sixth, but he said the move was consistent with the pitching strategy he had laid out when he became manager 10 days ago.
"I said a couple of weeks ago that I want to get our pitchers to the point where they all go home feeling great about themselves," Oates said. "It was the sixth inning and they had the heart of their order up, so I got Hickey up. I didn't want Bob to end up giving up a couple of runs and going home with an 'L' after the way he pitched. I wanted him knowing he pitched well."
Milacki isn't the type to argue, even though he hasn't had a lot of opportunities to win lately. He still is trying to get back to where he was in 1989, when he won 14 games and played a major role in the Orioles "Why Not?" pennant chase.
"I wanted to stay out there, obviously," he said, "but he wanted the lefty in there against the lefty. It worked out."
Everything seemed to work out. Oates brought in Olson with two on and two out in the eighth inning, only to watch Tom Brunansky scorch a line drive toward left field. No sweat. Hulett made a diving catch to save at least one run -- maybe two.
"It was a game-saver," Oates said. "That's just total reaction. I don't know how hard it was to see the ball from where he was standing, but I never saw it leave the bat. The next time I saw it, it was sticking out of Timmy's glove.
"That's a play you can't teach. It's pure reaction. But give Cal [Ripken] Sr. some credit for positioning him in the right place. One step to his right and that ball is into the corner."
Hulett confirmed that it was difficult to see the ball against the background of white-shirted fans in the field boxes, but he got just enough of his glove on it to flag it down.
"It was just a reaction," Hulett said. "He hit it hard, and it was hooking a little bit toward me. I hit the ground, and I wanted to make sure it didn't come out [of his glove]. I wanted to make sure it stayed there."
It did. Maybe it wouldn't have two weeks ago, but it did yesterday. Good fortune has begun to smile on the Orioles, and it has been a long time coming.
"Two weeks ago, everything was falling in," Hulett said. "Now, we're playing pretty well and the atmosphere is good. We have that hunger to get a win every day."
There have been some unlikely heroes. Four of the players who contributed to yesterday's victory started the season in the minor leagues.
* Milacki, who was with the Class AA Hagerstown Suns until April 26, turned in his third straight solid performance.
* First baseman David Segui, who was called up from the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings on May 19, had the first three-hit game of his career and scored a run.
* Hickey, who recently returned from Hagerstown, came on to retire a tough left-handed hitter in a pivotal situation for the tTC second time in three days.
* Reliever Todd Frohwirth turned in his fourth straight scoreless appearance since he was recalled from Rochester, pitching 1 2/3 hitless innings.
Right-hander Danny Darwin (2-2) was pitching a strong game for the Red Sox, but Boston manager Joe Morgan apparently left him out there one batter too long.
Morgan went out to talk to Darwin after he had given up a line out to Ernie Whitt and a double to Juan Bell in the seventh inning, but left him in to pitch to Devereaux, who drove a 1-1 slider into the screen above the Green Monster to put the Orioles on top.
"I was looking for a pitch out over the plate," Devereaux said. "I'm not even sure what it was. He had just thrown me a curveball that I just waved at, but the next pitch was over the plate, and I got the good part of the bat on it."
The Orioles pulled back to within 8 1/2 games of first place in the American League East, but remain at the bottom of the division standings.
"I definitely think there's still hope," Hulett said. "I think my goal is for us to get back to .500 by the All-Star break. If you're within five or six games at the All-Star break, there's always hope. And who knows, that might be about the time that Glenn Davis comes back."
That's something to think about, but the Orioles finally are proving they can win without him.