Face it. There are certain pitchers who thrive out on the tightrope, and for whom the 1-2-3 inning is as foreign a concept as splitting the atom.
The Orioles' Bob Milacki is that kind of pitcher, and yesterday's 6-4 win over the California Angels was testament to Milacki's prowess for working near the edge of danger.
"Even though I didn't dazzle them, I had enough to get us into the eighth," said Milacki. "It would be a little more comfortable if I would get some 1-2-3s [innings]."
Milacki, who gave up 10 hits and four runs in seven innings,
never really struggled, but he didn't resemble Cy Young, either.
He gave up a run in the first inning for the sixth time in nine starts, and allowed at least one hit in each inning.
But, thanks to the efforts of Brady Anderson, who went 3-for-5 with a fifth-inning homer to tie the score and an eighth-inning single to drive in an insurance run, and Gregg Olson, whose 105th career save tied Tippy Martinez for the all-time club lead, Milacki (4-2) got his third win in as many starts.
"He's a survivor," pitching coach Dick Bosman said of Milacki. "He's able to pitch with what he's got. It's kind of important to have the ability to persevere, to make some adjustments."
JTC "He's a streaky pitcher," said manager Johnny Oates. "He'll give you two or three bad outings, then give you five or six in a row that are real good."
Yesterday's win, combined with the Toronto Blue Jays' 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox, sends the Orioles back into first place in the American League East, as they head out on a 10-day, nine-game West Coast trip, which starts tonight in Seattle.
The West Coast swing will provide the Orioles with a measurement of how far they have come this season, and also how far they have to go to be a factor in the pennant race.
The Orioles haven't collected an overall winning West Coast record in five years, and last posted a winning mark on a West Coast visit in May 1990, when they went 5-4.
Veterans of the 1989 season, during which the Orioles fell two games short of Toronto, recall less than savory West Coast journeys, including trips to Oakland and California, where they dropped seven of eight.
"We played good, but we lost a few close games. This year, we're going to start winning a few of those close games," said Milacki.
With series against the Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox awaiting the Orioles when they return June 5, a respectable visit to the West could go a long way in the pennant race.
"We have our work cut out," said first baseman Randy Milligan. "Hopefully, we'll come back .500. That's all we're looking for."
Specifically, the pitching staff will have its work cut out, from now through mid-July.
In the first 36 days of the season, the Orioles had six days off and one rainout, and they will get two days off in this coming trip, in the middle and at its end.
And from June 5 until the All-Star break, the Orioles will play 36 games in 38 days.
As a result, the team will go to a true five-man starting rotation, as opposed to the current setup in which fifth man Jose Mesa has gone as long as eight days between starts.
L "Everybody wants to know when they're working," said Bosman.
The fourth man in the rotation, Milacki, pitched in and out of trouble virtually all day yesterday, allowing single runs in three of the first four innings.
In the first, Luis Polonia led off with a ground-rule double into the center-field bleachers and scored on successive ground outs to second.
In the second inning, former Oriole Rene Gonzales got a one-out hit to center, moved to second on Gary Gaetti's single and scored on shortstop Gary DiSarcina's two-out single.
The Orioles pushed across a run in the second, when Milligan, who had reached on an infield single, scored on a sacrifice fly by Leo Gomez.
Mike Devereaux tripled to lead off the Baltimore third and scored the tying run on Cal Ripken's grounder to short.
Angels catcher Mike Fitzgerald, who had been hitting .191 going into the game, hit a two-out homer to left in the fourth to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.
From there, Anderson went to work, punching a homer off the Cleveland Indians flag in right field, just over the scoreboard, to .. tie the score at 3 in the fifth.
After Devereaux flied out, Ripken gave the Orioles the lead for good with a homer to left.
Milacki, however, wasn't finished flirting with danger. Gonzales bailed him out of a potential spot in the sixth, after Milacki had given up a leadoff hit to Lee Stevens, by grounding into a double play.
However, in the seventh, again with two out, Von Hayes homered to right, hitting the top of the out-of-town scoreboard, slicing the Orioles' lead to 5-4.
"It seemed like every time he got hurt, he got it up there in the strike zone," Oates said of Milacki.
But Todd Frohwirth and Olson turned in shutout relief work in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
And Anderson provided insurance in the eighth with a two-out RBI single to right, scoring Gomez, who had walked to lead off.