CLEVELAND -- The fans poured into Cleveland Stadium by the dozens last night, braving the unseasonably chilly temperatures to see the opener of a three-game series between the two worst teams in the American League East.
They got to see Baltimore Orioles right-hander Bob Milacki take a shutout into the ninth inning and defeat their Cleveland Indians, 2-1, to record his 10th victory of the season.
They got to see Gregg Olson come on in the ninth inning to record his 29th save of the year and move into second place on the club's all-time save list with 93.
They got to see Cleveland starter Dave Otto pitch an outstanding game, giving up just six hits in a complete-game effort that proved he is a much better pitcher than his 1-7 record might indicate.
This is the kind of thing they've been seeing all year, which explains why only a fraction of the 5,057 tickets sold were actually used.
Fill-in first baseman David Segui delivered a two-out single in the eighth inning to break a scoreless tie and Chris Hoiles hit his 11th home run of the year in the ninth to provide a much-needed margin for error, as the Orioles won for the seventh time in their past 11 games.
Segui was not even in the starting lineup. Glenn Davis started at first base, but left the game in the sixth inning after grounding out in three consecutive at-bats. He has been playing with a variety of bumps and bruises lately, and it showed as he struggled down the first-base line after his last at-bat.
"He had four ice packs on him in Boston," manager John Oates said. "He has a bad hamstring, bad feet. He's sore all over because he's been off all summer."
The Orioles had managed just three singles through the first seven innings, but Bill Ripken opened the eighth with a single to right-center and Luis Mercedes moved pinch runner Juan Bell into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
Bell moved to third on a ground-out by Mike Devereaux and Cal Ripken was walked intentionally before Segui's looping single fell in front of right fielder Wayne Kirby to bring home the first run of the game.
Oates knew it was going to turn out that way. He told pitching coach Al Jackson that when he sent Segui into the game an inning earlier.
"He said they were going to walk Cal and Segui was going to win the game," Jackson said. "He said they were going to take Segui for granted and he would beat them with a hit to right field. He's psychic."
Hoiles' homer to left field with two out in the ninth turned out to be very important when Milacki walked the leadoff batter in the ninth and Olson gave up a two-out RBI single to Mike Aldrete.
The Indians threatened to send the game into extra innings when Carlos Martinez lined a single to left-center to put runners at first and third, but Olson struck out Jim Thome to preserve the victory.
Milacki (10-8) was coming off one of his worst performances of the year. He gave up five runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Indians last Saturday at Memorial Stadium, breaking a string of six solid starts. Last night he gave up five hits through eight innings.
It was the 15th time in his past 17 starts that Milacki has pitched six innings or more, but he has just three victories to show for an eight-game run in which he has given up three runs or fewer seven times.
No one said this season was going to be easy. Milacki started the year with the Class AA Hagerstown Suns and didn't make his first major-league start until May 20, but he leads the Orioles in virtually every statistical category relevant to a starting pitcher.
He was not particularly overpowering last night. The Indians had runners on base in six of the first seven innings, but Milacki took advantage of four double-play balls to hold them scoreless.
"I couldn't throw my fastball as hard as I wanted to," Milacki said. "I had to back off it to throw it for strikes. I was throwing a batting-practice fastball, but I made some pitches when I had to and they were hitting balls at people. I wasn't really in a groove all night."
Otto had turned in a strong performance in his previous appearance, holding the Orioles to one earned run in six innings Sept. 13. He picked up right where he left off, holding them to just three hits through his first seven innings.
The Orioles almost broke through in the fifth, after Otto handed a leadoff walk to designated hitter Randy Milligan. Third baseman Leo Gomez moved Milligan to second with a sacrifice bunt and Hoiles lined a single to right to put runners at first and third. But Bill Ripken lined out to short and Mercedes grounded into a force play to end the inning.
This is the same club that came into the game with 29 home runs in September and at least one in each of the past 10 games, but the Orioles were down to their last out before Hoiles extended the streak to 11 -- three short of the club record.