ARLINGTON, Texas -- On a night that Gregg Olson made a rare departure in a save situation and Mike Flanagan picked him up by getting a game-ending double play, Dave Johnson was almost a forgotten winning pitcher for the Orioles.
bTC "That was the best he has thrown in a year and a half," said manager John Oates, after Johnson pitched four scoreless innings in the 8-6 win. "And it was his best four innings in at least a year."
Johnson (4-4) needed one break, getting a double play on a long line drive off the bat of Ruben Sierra in the seventh inning, but allowed only two hits in four strong innings. "I was more aggressive," said the righthander, who lost his spot in the starting rotation to Arthur Rhodes. "I kept throwing the sinker [which he said he had abandoned his last four outings] and they didn't always sink, but I got a lot of outs with it."
Johnson took over for Jose Mesa, who couldn't duplicate his complete-game win over the Rangers last week and was shelled for six runs in four innings. The big blows were a two-run homer by Brian Downing and a three-run shot by Kevin Reimer in the third inning, when the Rangers scored five times.
* RARE DISAPPEARANCE: Two singles, a sacrifice bunt that provided the defensive play of the night, and a walk influenced Oates to remove Olson with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning last night. Flanagan got Rafael Palmeiro to ground into a double play to end the game.
"We may have to initiate a new throwing program for Gregg," Oates said of his relief ace. "He doesn't do a lot of throwing when we don't use him and his history is that he's most effective when he pitches short and often.
"But we wear him out for five days and then don't need him for four or five days. We might have to get him up and throwing whenever he doesn't pitch in successive games. It's something we'll talk about."
Dean Palmer's sacrifice bunt in the ninth produced a controversial call by Richie Garcia, the first base umpire. Leo Gomez made a barehanded pickup and throw (the ball appeared to be heading foul) and second baseman Bill Ripken made a sensational play to catch the ball as he was colliding with Palmer.
It wasn't clear whether anybody had touched the base, and when Garcia didn't make a call, Ripken walked over and tagged Palmer, who was sprawled on the ground. "I don't know how he caught the ball," said Oates.
The replay wasn't conclusive, but seemed to indicate Palmer did touch the base. The call brought a vehement argument from Texas manager Bobby Valentine, with the usual result.
Then, after Olson walked Julio Franco, Flanagan got Palmeiro to hit a weak grounder to Ripken, who tagged Franco and threw to first to end the game.
* THIS 'N THAT: Jolting Joe Orsulak's first-inning single extended his career-high hitting streak to 18 games. That's the longest by an Oriole since Lee Lacy hit in 20 straight in 1985.
Meanwhile Cal Ripken (3-for-4 last night) is creeping back into the batting race. His average is now .329, nine points behind Palmeiro.