Angels batter McDonald, Orioles for 3 HRs, 5-4 win Milligan's grand slam in 8th not enough

July 24, 1991|By Kent Baker

The "Season To Remember" drags on, conspicuous only by its futility.

No one had that reversal in mind when the Baltimore Orioles selected the slogan for the final year at Memorial Stadium, but if they don't start winning more often at home, it will be a season to forget.

The California Angels, a team that scored two or fewer runs eight times on a recent 10-game homestand, administered the lately indignity last night, holding on, 5-4, before 25,537 fans.

Ben McDonald succumbed to a sudden wave of might, permitting three home runs to an offense that had not produced one in the equivalent of 12 games.

That was plenty of backing for Jim Abbott, who remained undefeated in four decisions against the Orioles, but Abbott had to sweat out Randy Milligan's first career grand slam (against Bryan Harvey) before securing the victory.

There were no definitive answers for the woes of McDonald, whose command of pitches is "bothering" manager John Oates. "You can't pitch at this level with one pitch [fastball]. I don't care if it is 94 mph."

McDonald's downfall began when Luis Polonia, the leadoff man, hit his first homer in almost a year and only the 12th of his career, an opposite-field shot in the third on what the Orioles starter thought was a good pitch.

That broke strings of 108 innings and 419 plate appearances without a homer for the Angels, whose batting slump has cost them a shot at the lead in the tightly contested American League West.

"All you can do is shake your head when that happens," said McDonald. "It's only 309 down that way. I threw the ball where I wanted it. I supplied a lot of the power on that one."

Dave Winfield and Gary Gaetti, both mired in slumps, followed suit with fifth-inning homers and the Angels built a five-run lead for Abbott, who permitted only two runners in scoring position during his seven-inning stint.

"I don't have answer," Oates said of McDonald. "He's fine physically, but tonight he was all over everywhere, up and up and up."

McDonald blamed the difficulty on falling behind hitters, which forced him to throw his bread-and-butter pitch, the fastball, more frequently.

"I was just thinking I didn't have command with the curve," he said. "If you're 0-1 or 0-2 on guys, you can throw curves and changeups. You've just got to get ahead of guys.

"I only walked one, but I was behind an awful lot."

The Angels, losers of 11 of their previous 14 games, were in danger of blowing the lead after reliever Mark Eichhorn surrendered two hits and a hit batsman and Milligan crushed his slam against the ace of the bullpen, Harvey.

In the ninth, the Orioles put the leadoff man on when David Segui reached on Luis Sojo's, but Oates decided to go for the whole pie, disdaining the bunt with no one out.

Sam Horn pinch hit for Leo Gomez and rolled into a double play and that was that.

"I was going for the win," said Oates. "I didn't want to give outs away the way we're hitting with men on base. I thought we had a better chance to score two runs with three outs than one run with two."

So the Orioles went down to their 28th home defeat in 42 games, a .333 percentage, and sixth overall in the last seven games.

And the mystery of McDonald continues. In his previous outing, he "just threw fastball after fastball" with a seven-run lead and was quickly knocked out by Kansas City in a game the Royals won, 9-8, in 15 innings.

"I'm not worried about Ben," said Oates. "We expect so much from him. But you hope that coming back from the [elbow] injury, he would be more consistent.

"It looks like it's getting to the point where he's lost confidence in the curve. He threw way too many fastballs up. We need him to improve the location of his curve and to throw it more."

McDonald and Abbott were teammates on the 1988 United States Olympic team, but it is Abbott who is capturing the gold right now.

"He's been pitching this way for about three months," said manager Doug Rader. "His won-lost record [8-7] is the most bewildering in the league. He could very easily have 16 wins, and that's without really bending it that much."

McDonald allowed 12 hits for the first time as a major-leaguer and three homers for only the second time.

"It wasn't one of my better nights," he said. "But I thought I had good enough stuff to win the game. I've probably been thinking too much out there. The less thinking sometimes the better."

Angels-Orioles scoring Angels first: Polonia struck out. Joyner walked. Winfield singled to right-center, Joyner to third. Parker singled to left, Joyner scored, Winfield to second. Gaetti grounded into double play, third baseman Gomez to first baseman Milligan, Winfield out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Angels 1, Orioles 0.

Angels third: Polonia homered down the left-field line on 1-2 count. Joyner struck out. Winfield grounded out to shortstop C.Ripken. Parker singled to second. Gaetti struck out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Angels 2, Orioles 0.

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