TORONTO -- It was exactly as general manager Roland Hemond had envisioned it last winter. The Baltimore Orioles were at SkyDome in the heat of the pennant race, and new additions Dwight Evans and Glenn Davis were making life miserable for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Though the Orioles are only bit players in the American League East race, and their two off-season additions have played only bit parts this season, they had the Blue Jays seeing stars after last night's 8-4 victory.
Evans had a season-high four hits, including a game-breaking, three-run homer in the seventh inning, and Davis highlighted a three-hit performance with a home run and a double, as the Orioles ended a three-game losing streak.
The two of them figured prominently in the club's 1991 schematic when the season began, but Davis missed four months with a freak neck injury and Evans spent a month on the disabled list with a sore Achilles' tendon. Last night, together in the starting lineup for only the 10th time this season, they carried starter Ben McDonald to his first victory since Aug. 2.
Evans was in the starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 26, probably because he owned a .417 career average against Toronto starter David Wells. He had two singles and a double against the Blue Jays left-hander, then dropped the seventh-inning bomb on relief pitcher Jim Acker.
Davis entered the game in a 1-for-18 slump, but he homered in the fourth inning and doubled to start a sixth-inning rally that would force Wells out of the game. He also delivered a run-scoring single in the seventh.
"Tonight was a good night for me," Davis said. "I've been struggling the last week or so. I had a couple of good games and then went into a tailspin. I said before that I had my work cut out for me, and that's about it."
McDonald (6-8) pitched six solid innings to end a personal three-game skid, but all good Orioles pitching news must come with an asterisk. He had to leave the game with stiffness in his shoulder, a condition that the club said was not serious.
"It's all right," said McDonald, who left his previous start with a forearm cramp. "I've thrown a lot of innings lately. I think it [all the work] just kind of caught up with me. It got a little tight, so I took myself out of the ballgame. I'll be out there for my next start."
Who knows if Davis and Evans will be out there with him? Davis is playing every day, but he is one of the reasons that Evans' playing time has diminished over the past few weeks.
"Dewey has really played well for us in the role he has had to play since Glenn came off the DL," manager John Oates said. "With [Chito] Martinez playing so well in right field, it has really limited his [Evans'] playing time, but he has really responded."
Evans was supposed to play a much larger role in the Orioles' return to prominence this year, but a funny thing happened on the way to the playoffs. Through no fault of his, the Orioles fell out of contention in a hurry, and Evans has paid a price in playing time.
He came back July 11 from a monthlong stay on the disabled list, but that was about a week after Martinez made an auspicious debut and won a regular role in the outfield.
"I came back, and I really wasn't ready," Evans said. "I wanted to help John [Oates]. It just took me longer than I thought. Since Chito's been up, he's been outstanding.
"They kind of hinted that they wanted me to play a different role. That's OK with me. That's why I've been playing better, because I've accepted that role."
McDonald was coming off his best start in a month, an eight-inning, eight-strikeout performance against the Blue Jays at Memorial Stadium that had Oates wondering if happy days were here again.
The McDonald curveball, so inconsistent this year, was showing up in the strike zone more and more, even if the results weren't showing up in the box score.
"I made the statement about four starts ago that it seemed like it was coming," Oates said. "The last four or five times out, it's been a little bit better and a little bit better."
But McDonald remains prone to the mistake pitch, as he proved again last night. He retired the Blue Jays in order in the first inning, but gave up a two-run homer to Kelly Gruber in the second.
It was Gruber's 16th home run of the year and the 12th of his career against the Orioles. He has hit three against Baltimore this season. First baseman John Olerud also hit his 16th home run, a bases-empty shot to left in the sixth.
McDonald has given up 16 homers in 119 1/3 innings this year. He gave up nine over 118 2/3 innings during his half-season with the club in 1990.
But he weathered the two-run second, and his teammates fought back against Wells, using the long ball to score in the fourth inning. Davis hit a shot into the Orioles bullpen in right field for his sixth home run of the season and second since he returned from four months on the disabled list.