BOSTON -- Manager Johnny Oates played a hunch yesterday, and it played very large in the Orioles' 8-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
He was looking for someone to get on base against Red Sox lefthander Frank Viola and he looked to utility player Tim Hulett, who moved into the second spot as designated hitter in the lineup and contributed three hits to the club's first big offensive performance of the season.
"We were struggling at the top of the order, and I just wanted to get somebody else up there," Oates said. "It really wasn't a logical choice, because Timmy only has about a .230 lifetime on-base percentage against lefthanded pitching."
There weren't a lot of other righthanded options. Oates could have gone with utility infielder Mark McLemore, a switch-hitter who has swung the bat well all spring. He has the speed to add an extra dimension at the top of the lineup, but Hulett had more of a track record against Viola.
"He had the second-most at-bats against Viola behind Cal [Ripken]," Oates said, "but that wasn't that big a factor. I just felt like, being in this ballpark, maybe he might pop a couple off the wall."
Hulett didn't dent the Green Monster, but he singled Brady Anderson to third in the first inning to set up the first run. His second single brought home Bill Ripken in the second, and he singled and scored in the fourth. He finished with three hits in four at-bats.
* ANDERSON ON BASE: Leadoff man Anderson has reached base five times in his past 10 plate appearances, and it hasn't been easy. He was hit by pitches twice in Sunday's loss to the Toronto Blue Jays before turning up his on-base percentage in a more conventional way yesterday.
He had a walk, an RBI single and a crucial leadoff double in the eighth inning to contribute mightily to the Orioles' eight-run performance.
"You can't get hit twice every game," said Anderson, who still is feeling the effects of the David Wells fastball that hit him on the hand Sunday.
Oates has made on-base percentage a priority for Anderson, who came into yesterday's game with a .308 on-base percentage. That isn't good enough to sustain him in the full-time leadoff role, but he took a big step in the right direction by reaching base in three of his five plate appearances. That raised his on-base percentage to .440.
* MOOSE CALL: First baseman Randy "Moose" Milligan appears to be recovering from a frustrating first week at the plate. He managed just a single in his first 13 at-bats, his first hit coming in Sunday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Milligan came back yesterday to contribute a single, two doubles and an RBI ground out to the Orioles' biggest offensive performance of the young season. He still has a way to go. His four hits in 18 at-bats works out to a .222 batting average.
* DEMPSEY UPDATE: General manager Roland Hemond said yesterday that he expects to meet with taxi-squad catcher Rick Dempsey to discuss his future with the club. Dempsey continues to work out with the club and figures to accept some kind of coach/instructor role in the organization.
* MUM'S THE DAVIS WORD: Hemond said there was no new word on the status of first baseman Glenn Davis, who remains in Baltimore with a strained muscle in his rib cage. The club announced last week that Davis might join the club at some point during the six-game trip, but there never has been a timetable for his return.
Hemond indicated he would be getting further information from Orioles orthopedist Dr. Charles Silberstein soon.