The Baltimore Orioles still can provide an evening of entertainment at Memorial Stadium, though the presence of the struggling Milwaukee Brewers certainly helped make last night more interesting.
There were subplots everywhere in the Orioles' 13-5 victory, which broke a four-game home losing streak and evened the four-game series at a game apiece. Here are just a few:
* Dave Johnson had not won a game since April 12, but he gave up five runs over six innings and won anyway, thanks to a six-run fourth inning that broke open a close game.
* John Oates never had been ejected from a game as a major-league manager, but there's a first time for everything.
* Chris Hoiles had a double in three consecutive innings and came up one short of the club record for doubles in a game, held by Charlie Lau and Dave Duncan.
* Mike Devereaux drove in four runs with two singles, a double and a sacrifice fly.
* Cal Ripken had been struggling at the plate, but he drove in three runs with a double and a single to increase his RBI total to 72.
Oates' ejection was the most incongruous moment, since he has to be one of the most mild-mannered managers in the major leagues. He approached plate umpire Derryl Cousins to make a point in the sixth inning and got the hook before he could complete a sentence.
It wasn't exactly a pivotal moment in the game, but it was the most intriguing one. What did Oates say that got such an immediate reaction? What did Cousins do that brought Oates out of the dugout?
Oates, of course, said it was no big deal.
"I was arguing balls and strikes, and that's automatic," he said. "I was doing my job, and he was doing his job. There were a lot more important things that happened in the game tonight than that."
Johnson's second post-injury start, for instance. He gave up five runs on 10 hits before turning the game over to Mike Flanagan to start the seventh, but his performance was better than it looked.
"It was disappointing," Johnson said, "because you look at the box score and you're going to think, 'He got lucky.' I threw much better than that. I'm in a situation where I have to throw the ball well, and it looked like I wasn't."
Johnson's return to the starting rotation has been a qualified success, though he did not get the decision in last Wednesday's 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners and he took some lumps last night. He has worked into the late innings in each of the two starts since he returned from the disabled list and, by his account, has evolved as a pitcher since he went on the DL in late May.
"I've made some adjustments in my pitch selection," Johnson said before the game. "I really haven't had my good sinker all year, so I've had to adjust and it has worked pretty well."
The erratic sinker presented a confidence problem for Johnson, who allowed a major-league high 30 home runs last year. He allowed three more in a July 26 relief appearance against the Oakland Athletics before returning to the starting rotation.
"It was discouraging because you know that's a big pitch for you," he said. "I'd throw one that would break three feet and the next one would stay up in the strike zone. You start thinking, 'I want to throw the sinker, but my sinker isn't what it once was.' This whole season has been a wake-up call."
Talk about a wake-up call. Johnson seemed ripe for another early-inning Orioles knockout after he gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with no one out in the top of the first inning. But he got off easy, allowing just one run, on a sacrifice fly by Franklin Stubbs.
The Orioles have made a habit of falling behind in a hurry, and they came close to doing it again when cleanup hitter Robin Yount whistled a line drive right at Ripken for the first out. Stubbs followed with a fly ball to deep center to score Paul Molitor, and Candy Maldonado bounced back to the mound to end the inning.
Johnson pitched with runners on base in each of the first four innings and -- for the first time in his major-league career -- struggled to hold runners on base. Coming into the game, opposing runners had stolen just one base in 12 attempts during Johnson's major-league career, but the Brewers stole two in three innings.
Bill Spiers stole second base with two out in the second, and Darryl Hamilton did the same with one out in the third, but Milwaukee did not turn either opportunity into a run.
The Orioles tied the game in the bottom of the third on back-to-back hits by Hoiles and Juan Bell and a sacrifice fly by Devereaux, only to fall behind again on an RBI single by Jim Gantner in the fourth. But that would be the last anyone would hear from the Milwaukee lineup.
Brewers rookie Jim Hunter lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on two hits and two walks in the six-run fourth before giving way to Chuck Crim.