TORONTO -- Bob Milacki had the best curveball of his life and for the first time in his career he was a five-pitch pitcher here last night.
All he got to show for it was his eighth loss of the year.
"It's funny how this game is," said Milacki (8-8). "The last time out I gave up 11 hits, but we scored 10 runs and I got a win. This time I got the loss. That's how this game is sometimes."
Milacki tied his career-high with 10 strikeouts, aided by what manager John Oates called "the best curveball I've ever seen him throw."
It wasn't long ago, 1988 when he was managing in Rochester, that Oates tried to dissuade Milacki from using the pitch. "I didn't like it," admitted Oates. "I tried to get him to shelve it. But Jack [pitching coach Al Jackson] liked it, and wanted him to use it more. This was the best I've ever seen him throw. He had five pitches working for him [fastball, sinker, slider and changeup in addition to the curve]. But when you only get two runs off a guy [Todd Stottlemyre] in 22 innings, you have to pitch a shutout to win."
The overall results have been encouraging. Milacki has been the Orioles' most consistent starter, but neither his, nor the team's, record reflects it.
* CALL-UPS COMPLETED: The Orioles made the final additions to their late-season roster yesterday, recalling pitcher Jeff Ballard, catcher Jeff Tackett and outfielder Luis Mercedes from Triple A Rochester.
In an apparent deference to Mercedes' suspension by the International League, which technically expired when Rochester's season ended last night, Mercedes will not be activated until Sunday. Ballard and Tackett will join the club for tomorrow night's game against Kansas City.
Ballard was 3-3 with a 4.41 earned run average after being sent to Rochester as part of the pitching staff purge on July 30. Tackett, an excellent defensive catcher, hit .237, with six home runs and 50 RBIs. He threw out 49 of 94 runners trying to steal -- a .521 percentage that was easily tops in the International League.
Mercedes failed to win his third straight batting title when he finished second with a .334 average. Derek Bell, now with the Blue Jays, led the league with a .346 mark. Mercedes led the Single A Carolina League with a .309 mark two years ago and last year led the Double A Eastern League with the same average he had this year, .334. Overall he has a .318 average in four minor-league seasons.
Mercedes, however, has a history of problems on and off the field, the most recent being his suspension for throwing his helmet in the face of a Syracuse player almost two weeks ago. He was suspended for the rest of the season and fined $300.
* 20-GAME WINNERS AND 50 MILLION FANS: When the Orioles open a nine-game homestand against the Kansas City Royals tomorrow night they will welcome back the four 20-game winners from the 1971 season. Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, and current Royals' pitching coach Pat Dobson will be saluted.
Either tomorrow night or Saturday, Memorial Stadium will welcome its 50,000,000th baseball fan.