NEW YORK -- Compared with the rest of his career, Brady Anderson has had a great year this month.
The fleet outfielder's incredible April run continued yesterday, as the Orioles beat the New York Yankees, 9-2, to move back into a second-place tie with them in the American League East.
Anderson led the charge with a career-high five RBI on a three-run homer, a sacrifice fly and a double. The left-handed-hitting leadoff hitter raised his average to .318 and improved his standing among the league leaders in eight other ** offensive categories.
Ben McDonald (2-0) was the beneficiary of the late scoring splurge by the Orioles, who won for the eighth time in their past nine games. The big right-hander struggled at times but was generally effective before leaving with a 5-1 lead after giving up a double and two singles to start the seventh inning.
Todd Frohwirth, Mike Flanagan and Gregg Olson pitched the last three innings, as the Orioles ran their record to 11-6 and remained three games behind the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays.
David Segui led the Orioles with three hits, two runs scored and two driven in, but Anderson was the big story. His home run opened the scoring against left-hander Jeff Johnson (1-2) in the fifth. He capped a two-run seventh with a sacrifice fly that scored Segui and a four-run eighth with an RBI double.
"It took me a long time -- five years -- to get more than three [RBI] in a game," said Anderson. "I got a slider that was out over the plate [on a 2-2 pitch] for the home run, and I got a little lucky on the sacrifice fly. The [infield] grass ate the ball up on the throw [from center fielder Roberto Kelly]."
If you can believe Orioles manager Johnny Oates, the most satisfying part of the afternoon came when Anderson doubled to left-center off reliever Lee Guetterman in the eighth.
"That's the one I liked the best. Actually, I liked the three-run homer better, but I didn't tell him that," said Oates, who has always said that Anderson performs best when he's not thinking about home runs.
"When he hit one the other night [a two-run shot off Mark Davis that broke a scoreless tie], I said, 'Uh oh, here we go again' -- and he went hitless his last four at-bats. But this time, he stayed in there against another left-hander and went the other way for a hit. I liked that."
Oates also is happy that Anderson is exceeding the manager's hopes with a .405 on-base percentage. During spring training, Oates said he would settle with a leadoff hitter getting on base 38 percent of the time "and if it's 35 percent, I can live with it."
So far, Oates is living well, thanks in no small part to Anderson. "It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Brady's done for us," he said.
Yesterday's game hardly started out as a laugher. Before the Orioles scored on Anderson's homer, outstanding defense aided both starting pitchers in the early innings.
Yankees shortstop Randy Velarde ranged to his left and right to handle seven chances in the first four innings. He went deep into the hole three times, taking hits away from Anderson and Cal Ripken in the first inning and Chris Hoiles in the fourth.
The last play came immediately after second baseman Andy Stankiewicz initiated a spectacular double play. After Ripken singled off Velarde's glove, Stankiewicz dived to his right for a grounder hit by Mike Devereaux. Unable to free his throwing hand, Stankiewicz flipped the ball with his glove to Velarde, who made the catch and throw while eluding Ripken to complete the double play.
Two innings earlier, McDonald needed an assist from right fielder Luis Mercedes to keep the Yankees off the scoreboard. With runners on first and second via a walk to Matt Nokes and the first of Charlie Hayes' three hits, Velarde lined a single between first and second.
Mercedes, who made two errors in Friday night's 5-0 loss to the Yankees, changed to a different glove yesterday. That didn't matter on this play. He got to the ball quickly, picked it up with his bare hand and made a good throw to the plate to retire Nokes and end the inning.
The Yankees had runners in every inning but the fourth against McDonald, the Orioles were unable to mount anything against Johnson until Anderson hit his second home run of the year.
Johnson dug himself a hole by walking Leo Gomez to open the seventh. Segui followed with a double into the left-field corner. After Bill Ripken popped out, Gomez scored and Segui went to third on a passed ball by Nokes before Anderson lofted a sacrifice fly to medium center field.
A double by Jesse Barfield and singles by Hayes and Velarde chased McDonald in the seventh. Frohwirth got Stankiewicz on a fielder's-choice grounder and Don Mattingly on a foul pop before surrendering a run-scoring single to Kelly that prompted Flanagan's entrance.
With the potential tying run at the plate, the veteran left-hander struck out Mel Hall with three sweeping curveballs to end the threat.
"That was a big out," said Oates. "A base hit there and it's a much different game."
When the Orioles scored four times in the eighth (on a double by pinch hitter Mark McLemore, a two-run single by Segui and Anderson's double), it became academic and ended the
Yankees' three-game winning streak.
Yesterday's victory made the Orioles 11-6 and ensured their first winning April since 1985. Here's a look at the best Aprils in Orioles history:
.. .. .. Apr. .. .. .. .. .. Final rec.
Year.. ..rec. .. ..Pct. .. .. .(finish)
1966.. .11-1.. .. .917.. .. 97-63 (1st)
1969.. .16-7.. .. .696.. ..109-53 (1st)
1970.. .13-6.. .. .684.. ..108-54 (1st)
1985.. .12-7.. .. .632.. .. 83-78 (4th)
1968.. .10-6.. .. .625.. .. 91-71 (2nd)
1979.. .14-9.. .. .609.. ..102-57 (1st)