TORONTO -- Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bob Milacki could only chalk it up to the vagaries of an unpredictable sport. He pitched one of his best games of the year last night and still came up a loser.
Milacki equaled a career high with 10 strikeouts and pitched his second complete game of the year, but Toronto Blue Jays starter Todd Stottlemyre dominated the Orioles again on the way to a 3-1 victory at SkyDome.
Stottlemyre has faced the Orioles three times this year and given up three earned runs in 22 innings (1.23 ERA). He gave up a run on four hits over seven innings last night and got two innings of hitless relief from Duane Ward to assure his 13th victory.
Milacki said he threw his best game of the year, but still dropped to 8-8 as the Orioles ended a 4-8 run against the first-place Blue Jays and the American League West-leading Minnesota Twins.
"No doubt, that's the kind of stuff I usually throw shutouts with," Milacki said, "but it was far from that tonight. I felt like I could throw my curveball for a strike any time I wanted to. I thought I could throw all my pitches for strikes.
"It's kind of funny the way baseball is. My last game, I really had nothing and gave up 11 hits and won. Then I come back and have the best stuff possible and give up three runs. I thought I had better stuff than I had in the no-hitter."
Milacki struck out six in the first three innings, but he also gave up bases-empty home runs to Joe Carter and Candy Maldonado. Stottlemyre struck out one, but he took a shutout into the seventh before rookie Chito Martinez broke it up with a two-out RBI single.
"Bobby threw the ball very well," manager John Oates said. "I think the Baltimore Orioles would be tickled to death if he gave us 20 starts like that next year. We'll take our chances with his other 17.
"We just couldn't get anything going against Stottlemyre. Had we scored a run against him this year? [Yes, one in each of his two previous starts.] He really does it to us."
Stottlemyre never has lost to the Orioles. He is 5-0 lifetime with a 1.31 ERA in seven appearances against them. This time, he didn't give up a hit until the fourth inning and wasn't threatened until the Orioles put together a pair of two-out hits in the seventh.
Ward went the rest of the way to record his 18th save, and the Blue Jays took five of their last six games against Baltimore to win the season series, 8-5.
If the Orioles had hoped to salvage some respectability from their 12-game stretch against the AL's two first-place teams, they met with little success. The Blue Jays used them to keep the second-place Detroit Tigers at arm's length, increasing their division lead to three games last night.
The Orioles split their six games with the Twins, but didn't do anything to change the outlook in either division.
The Blue Jays did what winning teams do. They found a way to win against a pitcher who pitched too well to lose. Carter pulled a line drive into the Toronto bullpen in the first inning for his 30th homer of the year. Maldonado went deep to straightaway center for his ninth.
Milacki has been vulnerable to the home-run ball this year, though no more so than he has been throughout his three-year major-league career. He has given up 17 in 147 innings to lead the pitching staff. He gave up 18 over 135 1/3 innings last season.
The two early-inning shots hurt -- especially with Stottlemyre dominating the Orioles lineup -- but they did not change the fact that Milacki has been the most dependable starting pitcher on the staff this year.
"Easily," Oates said. "Since he came back from the minor leagues [in April], he has been very consistent."
He has pitched into the seventh inning in 10 consecutive starts and has a string of five starts in which he has given up three runs or fewer.
The Blue Jays couldn't build on their early lead. Milacki bounced back from Maldonado's leadoff homer in the second to retire 10 straight batters and went on to pitch his first complete game since July 18. He also lost that one, 5-1, to the Kansas City Royals.
But the Blue Jays were impressed anyway.
"He's not only a good pitcher, he understands pitching," said designated hitter Rance Mulliniks. "He's a better pitcher than 8-8."
Orioles-Blue Jays scoring
Blue Jays first: White struck out. Alomar struck out. Carter homered to left on 1-1 count. Olerud walked. Gruber struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Blue Jays 1, Orioles 0.
Blue Jays second: Maldonado homered to center on 1-1 count. Mulliniks grounded out to second baseman B.Ripken. Myers flied out to right fielder Martinez. Zosky struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. Blue Jays 2, Orioles 0.
Blue Jays sixth: White struck out. Alomar flied out to right fielder Martinez. Carter singled to center. Olerud doubled to left, Carter scored. Gruber grounded out to shortstop C.Ripken. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Blue Jays 3, Orioles 0.