BOSTON -- Blame it on SkyDome. The Orioles obviously play better in a more traditional baseball environment, or else they were just happy to get out of Toronto before the Blue Jays started printing playoff tickets.
Whatever the reason, the Orioles began hitting as soon as they got to Fenway Park yesterday and didn't stop until they had pounded out an 8-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Better a week late than never.
First baseman Randy Milligan broke out of a season-opening 1-for-13 slump with three hits, including a tie-breaking, two-out double in the eighth inning, as the Orioles ended a three-game losing streak and spoiled the Red Sox's home opener.
"That's the best we've swung the bat since probably the second spring training game against Kansas City," manager Johnny Oates said. "I can't think of another game since then that we hit better. Milligan swung the bat well, and with Glenn [Davis] out we have got to have him swinging the bat."
Milligan wasn't the only one. Tim Hulett showed up unexpectedly in the designated hitter role and had three hits by the fourth inning. Brady Anderson was on base three times in five trips to the plate, and Bill Ripken hit safely in his first two at-bats. The four of them were 6-for-8 with three runs and four RBI in the first three innings, when the club was building a 5-0 lead for starter Bob Milacki.
Boston left-hander Frank Viola, who signed a three-year, $13.9 million contract with the Red Sox during the winter, didn't make much of a first impression on the Fenway following. He gave up six runs on eight hits during three-plus innings and was lucky to slip away with a no-decision.
The big lead didn't hold up, but the Orioles didn't let down in the late innings. The Red Sox fought back to tie the score, only to fall behind when Anderson led off the eighth with a double and scored on the gapper by Milligan. Chris Hoiles added another run in the ninth with a sacrifice fly, and Gregg Olson bounced back from a discouraging loss in Toronto to pitch two scoreless innings for his first save of the year.
Milacki came up empty again. He left with a three-run lead after six innings, but the Red Sox knocked him out of the decision with three runs off Mike Flanagan and Todd Frohwirth in the seventh. Milacki has worked through the sixth inning in each of his first two starts of 1992, but has yet to get a decision.
He was more resourceful than impressive yesterday, allowing three runs on six hits and five walks in a performance that probably felt more like nine innings than six.
"I'm not happy with my performance," he said. "I made some pitches when I needed to, but that's not me walking five guys in six innings. I never could get into a groove.
"It shouldn't have been a situation where they could come back if I had pitched well enough. If I don't give up three runs when we've got a 5-0 lead in the third, I probably am still around in the seventh or eighth inning."
Instead, he came out after throwing 109 pitches and left the game in the hands of Flanagan, who had pitched just a third of an inning in the Orioles' first six games. The left-hander allowed the first four batters he faced to reach base in the seventh inning and recorded only one out before giving way to Frohwirth with the Orioles' lead down to one run.
Mike Greenwell led off the inning with a single and scored on a long double by Ellis Burks. Flanagan walked Phil Plantier and Jack Clark to load the bases before Mo Vaughn grounded into a force play to bring home the second run of the inning.
"Flanny really needs some work," Oates said. "He threw one pitch in Toronto and five pitches to one hitter in his other outing. He's thrown six game pitches in about 10 days. That's not enough. He needs some work. That's what I was trying to do today. I was planning on pitching him a couple of innings."
Frohwirth had made two significant outings in the previous three games, but he wasn't particularly sharp either. He came on to strike out Tony Pena, but walked pinch hitter Scott Cooper to load the bases and forced home the tying run with a walk to Wade Boggs.
The Orioles had blown an early three-run lead in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays in the first of three straight defeats in Toronto, so this was not a positive development. The club's recent history at the plate didn't bode well for a victory, either. The Orioles had not scored after the sixth inning in any of their first six games.
But Anderson greeted reliever Tony Fossas with a wall shot in the eighth and scored when Milligan drove a line drive up the alley in left-center field off right-hander Danny Darwin.
Enter Olson, who gave up a home run, a double and a game-ending single in the ninth inning of Friday's defeat. He doesn't usually come on in the eighth inning, but Oates was running out of alternatives.
"I would think that would be more exception than the rule," Oates said, "but you look back over the last couple of days in Toronto and our bullpen was pretty strapped."
It might have been just what Olson needed to get back on track. He gave up a sharp single to Greenwell to open the eighth, but got a double-play ball and a strikeout to get out of the inning. He walked pinch hitter Tom Brunansky with two out in the ninth to keep it interesting, but retired Tim Naehring to end the game.
"I thought he had his best fastball today, and he threw a couple of good breaking balls," Oates said, "but I'm going to have to talk to him about getting an honest 1-2-3 inning. Double plays don't count."
Saves do. That was Olson's 96th in just more than three seasons. He needs 10 more to break the club record of 105, held by Tippy Martinez.
"It was just nice to get in a couple of successful innings," Olson said. "I had to wash away that bad outing."