MILWAUKEE -- The Orioles might have figured they had caught a break this week when the Milwaukee Brewers announced that right-hander Chris Bosio would not be ready to pitch in the finale of a three-game series at County Stadium.
But it turned out to be a blessing for the Brewers, who were looking to avoid a three-game sweep yesterday.
Orioles starter Rick Sutcliffe pitched a five-hitter, but 23-year-old Ricky Bones averted the sweep with eight shutout innings and scored a 1-0 victory for Milwaukee.
Bones scattered five hits before turning the game over to reliever Doug Henry, who worked out of a two-on, none-out jam in the ninth to record his 13th save. The loss forced the Orioles (42-29) to settle for two victories on the single-city trip and prevented them from tying the Toronto Blue Jays (43-28) for first place in the American League East.
"I thought it was one of my best games," Bones said. "I had everything going. I knew it was going to be a close game because a veteran like [Sutcliffe] has been around forever. He probably figured I would eventually make a mistake because I'm a rookie."
Actually, Bones is not a rookie. He pitched enough with the San Diego Padres last year. He was acquired by the Brewers in the trade that sent Gary Sheffield to San Diego earlier this season.
Bosio originally was scheduled to face Sutcliffe, but he hyper-extended his left knee during his last start and was pushed back in the rotation to get a few more days to recover.
"I thought we had caught a break," Sutcliffe said, "but you have to give that kid a lot of credit. He got the outs when he needed them. He pitched better than I did."
That wasn't easy. Sutcliffe turned in one of his best performances of the season, giving up five singles over eight innings. But the Brewers scored a run in the seventh on a `D sacrifice fly by Robin Yount to hand him his sixth loss in 15 decisions.
If Sutcliffe could take comfort in his strong performance, he wanted none of it. He allowed one walk -- to Paul Molitor to lead off the seventh -- and would pay dearly for it. B.J. Surhoff followed with a single to right to put runners at first and third, and then Yount lifted a fly ball to left to score the run. It was Yount's 1,308th career RBI, tying him with Steve Garvey for 55th on the major leagues' all-time list.
"No question, the walk hurt," Sutcliffe said. "That's the only thing I gave them all day. The guy [Molitor] is a great hitter, so you try to make good pitches. I just missed a few times."
It might have been too much to expect Sutcliffe to keep Molitor from scoring once he reached third with none out, but Sutcliffe didn't think so. He was not happy with the pitch that Yount sent to medium-deep left field.
"The big out was Yount," he said. "I've got to keep the ball on the infield there. That's just another reason why he's going to be in Cooperstown when it's all said and done. He just knows how to do it."
Sutcliffe knows how to do it, too, but he just came up on the short end of an outstanding pitching duel. With a few breaks, he might be the league's winningest pitcher, but he has not won since June 10.
"The only difference between this game and Opening Day [when Sutcliffe pitched a shutout] is that we scored two runs on Opening Day," manager Johnny Oates said. "Today, he gave up a run and we didn't get any."
The Orioles had a chance to turn the game around in the ninth, when Mark McLemore drew a leadoff walk and Cal Ripken followed with an infield single. The hit extended Ripken's hitting streak to 13 games and ended Bones' outing, but Henry came on to retire the next three batters in order.
Sam Horn hit a fly ball to the warning track in left field that allowed McLemore to tag up and advance to third, but Henry struck out Mike Devereaux and Joe Orsulak to end the game.
"He came in in a tough situation and threw the ball well," Oates said. "He kept us from putting the ball in play when we had to."
The Orioles had a couple of other opportunities. Orsulak singled with two out in the second and would have scored on an ensuing hit by Leo Gomez, but the ball took a big hop over the fence in the left-field corner for a ground-rule double. If it had stayed in play, Orsulak would have scored easily, but he was forced to PTC remain at third and was stranded.
Orsulak seemed to be everywhere. He led off the fifth inning with a double, but was left on base when Jeff Tackett grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Oates had no quarrel with his team's performance, though he would have liked to hold the Brewers at bay for one more day. The Orioles came within a timely hit of winning the game. That hit just didn't come.
"The idea is to be close at the end so you have a chance to win," Oates said. "That goes for this game and that goes for the season, too. Being there in the third inning doesn't mean anything, and being there in June doesn't mean anything. You've got to be there at the end."