CHICAGO -- The Baltimore Orioles ran into another hot team last night, but this time they did not run into the usual trouble.
Right-hander Ben McDonald held the Chicago White Sox scoreless for 5 2/3 innings and the Orioles bullpen did the rest, protecting a 3-0 victory that ended an eight-game Sox winning streak.
The Orioles have become adept at playing the streak-buster. They ended the longest winning streak by any team this year -- the 15-game run by the Minnesota Twins in June -- and made short work of the longest White Sox winning streak since June of 1990. But they have yet to put together a sustained run of their own.
The longest Orioles winning streak was four games (June 21-25). Last night's victory was their second in a row, but only their fifth in the last 16 games.
McDonald combined with Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, Jim Poole and Gregg Olson to pitch the club's seventh shutout of the season, six of which have been combined efforts. The only complete-game shutout was pitched by Jose Mesa on May 6 against the California Angels.
The Orioles public relations department still is trying to determine whether the club set a record with the five-man shutout. Four Orioles pitchers tied a major-league record earlier this year when they combined to pitch a no-hitter. The major-league record for pitchers in a shutout is seven, but it was set in an extra-inning game.
Shutting down the explosive White Sox offense didn't figure to be a one-man job. Third baseman Robin Ventura was just named American League Player of the Month for a July performance that included 12 home runs and 33 RBI. First baseman Frank Thomas entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak during which he batted .421 with four homers and 14 RBI.
"I watched their game last night in the hotel and saw them score 13 runs," McDonald said, "so I knew it was going to be a tough game. But I've pitched against them before. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do."
Still, McDonald needed 106 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings, but he gave up four hits and got away untouched. He made things more difficult for himself with four walks and a wild pitch, but worked out of trouble when he had to on the way to his fifth victory in 10 decisions.
"I don't think it was a sharp outing for him," manager John Oates said, "but I think he showed how good he can be. He really knuckled down and made some good pitches when he had to."
The Orioles have been waiting for him to assert himself the way he did when he arrived in the major leagues to stay last July, but the 1991 season has been a constant struggle for consistency.
McDonald returned from the disabled list on July 1 this year to pitch eight shutout innings, but he has not put two strong games back-to-back since. In the five games that followed, McDonald was 1-2 with a 5.87 ERA.
The White Sox have been known to bring out the best in 1989's No. 1 draft choice. He made his first major-league start against them last year and threw a four-hitter to become only the fourth Oriole to pitch a shutout in his first major league start.
He was somewhat less effective in his only other start against Chicago, losing 8-7 on April 22 in his first start of 1990.
This time, McDonald got himself in serious trouble in the first inning when the White Sox loaded the bases on a single and two walks with one out, but he escaped on a pop-up and a strikeout to turn a shutout over to reliever Mike Flanagan in the sixth inning.
He also got off cheaply in the third, when Tim Raines led off the inning with a walk and went from first to third on a stolen base attempt when McDonald threw the ball to the backstop. But Ventura struck out swinging and Thomas struck out looking at a disputed pitch before Dan Pasqua sent Chito Martinez to the fence in right for the final out.
"Basically, I made some good pitches when I had to," McDonald said. "I thought I grew a lot tonight. I threw a couple of 3-2 changeups and made some good pitches to get out of trouble."
White Sox starter Alex Fernandez had not lost a game since June 16, when he gave up eight runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Kansas City Royals. He came into last night's game 3-0 since then, with a 3.32 ERA and five no-decisions, but it was apparent early on that he wasn't particularly sharp.
The Orioles managed just one hit over the first four innings, but White Sox outfielders had to go to the warning track to retrieve a number of near-misses.
Fernandez finally got in too deep in the fifth inning, loading the bases with no one down before the Orioles took the lead with a couple of run-scoring outs.
Randy Milligan led off the inning with a single to left and Chito Martinez -- just back from welcoming his new baby boy into the world -- followed with an opposite-field double. Fernandez walked Leo Gomez to load the bases and Bob Melvin drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly. Juan Bell brought home the second run with a grounder to short that should have been a double play ball, but Ozzie Guillen stepped on second and then pulled Thomas off the bag with a wide throw to first.
The Orioles added another run in the sixth after Joe Orsulak led off the inning with a triple. Cal Ripken brought him home with an opposite-field fly ball and recorded his 67th RBI of the year.
McDonald left the game with two outs and runners at first and third in the fifth. Flanagan came on to strike out Craig Grebeck looking to end the inning and preserve McDonald's third scoreless outing in 14 starts.