CHICAGO -- Even a losing team draws little consolation from a .500 road trip, but manager John Oates found something encouraging about the two-city trip to Seattle and Chicago.
"We gave them [the White Sox] four runs in three games," said Oates. "When you consider how they were hitting before we came in here and the way we've struggled at times with our pitching, it's a good feeling. It gives you confidence that you don't have to score seven or eight runs to win."
During the last four games, the Orioles have allowed only six earned runs for a 1.46 ERA.
* IRON MIKE: Mike Flanagan passed a former teammate to take the American League lead in innings pitched by a relief pitcher Saturday only to lose it yesterday.
"I was aware of it because I know [Toronto righthander] Duane Ward keeps track of those kind of things," said Flanagan, who was released by the Blue Jays last year. "I guarantee you [Tom] Henke and [Jimmy] Key are giving him a hard time."
Flanagan has pitched 73 innings, second only to Ward (73 2/3 ) among AL relievers. "Those guys [Henke and Key] are probably asking him [Ward] how he can be such a workhorse if he's not pitching as much as a 40-year-old," said Flanagan, who won't actually reach that age until December.
Since the purge of the Orioles' staff that sent starters Jeff Ballard and Jeff Robinson and reliever Paul Kilgus to Rochester, only Bob Milacki (105) has logged more innings than Flanagan, who has reduced his ERA to 1.99 by allowing only two earned run in his last 19 games (34 innings). At his current pace, Flanagan, who has appeared in 45 games, 44 as a reliever, will have no trouble making good on all of his incentive clauses.
* DOING IT BY THE NUMBERS: The Orioles' pitching is ranked next to last in the league with a 4.77 ERA, but has produced a couple of interesting combinations.
A club record was established Friday night when five pitchers -- Ben McDonald, Flanagan, Williamson, Jim Poole and Gregg Olson -- combined for a 3-0 shutout over the White Sox. The previous record was four, accomplished three times -- the most fTC recent being the no-hitter compiled by Milacki, Flanagan, Williamson and Olson against Oakland July 13.
* IN WILLIE'S DEFENSE: Williamson's pride was bruised just before last week's trading deadline. A national report on trade possibilities said the Orioles "would take anything" for the righthanded reliever.
"I asked Johnny [manager John Oates], 'What are you trying to get for me, a dozen baseballs?' " said Williamson. "Maybe they were trying to get a case of beer, but couldn't get the right brand."
Oates didn't appreciate the reference to Williamson's availability. "That was irresponsible," he said. "We can replace a lot of other positions before we replace Mark Williamson.
"Believe me, if we were trying to give him away we wouldn't have any trouble," said Oates. "So, I guess we don't want to give him away because he's still here."
Williamson has pitched only three times in the last 17 days, but Oates attributed that to circumstances. "He had a little tenderness in the elbow and we gave him some time," said Oates. "Then he threw 80 pitches in the extra-inning game in Kansas City [July 17]. Until the other night [Friday], situations haven't come up for him lately."
The passing of the (July 31) trade deadline was a relief to Williamson. "I know it's like the kiss of death," he said, "but I just bought a house in Baltimore."
* BRADY PLAYS VERSATILE ROLE: Oates admits that Brady Anderson has settled into the role of fifth outfielder for the Orioles.
"I feel good with him on the bench right now," said Oates. "I can use him to pinch-run, if I need somebody to bunt, on defense in the late innings or as a spot starter to give Devo [Mike Devereaux] a rest."
* THIS 'N THAT: Newcomers Poole and Stacy Jones returned to Rochester after yesterday's game to reclaim personal belongings and were scheduled to drive to Baltimore today.
Yesterday's attendance of 41,059 was the 49th straight crowd in excess of 30,000 for the White Sox, who surpassed 2 million on the earliest date in Chicago history.
The Orioles haven't committed an error in their last five games.