If Todd Frohwirth was waiting for the proper opportunity for his underhanded methods to give the Orioles a lift, his timing was perfect last night.
Mike Devereaux, who has been on a tear all month, delivered the winning hit in the 6-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals, but Frohwirth gave the Orioles a chance to win.
Frohwirth (2-0) allowed one hit in 3 2/3 scoreless innings after the Royals got a jump-start against Ben McDonald, taking a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning. Storm Davis also pitched a scoreless inning, and Gregg Olson picked up his 20th save despite allowing a run for only the second time in his past 15 appearances.
It was the fifth straight time McDonald failed in a bid for his eighth win, but the big right-hander got a big pick-me-up from the Orioles' bullpen, especially Frohwirth.
The right-hander with the unorthodox underhand delivery not only bailed McDonald out of his fourth-inning jam, but also gave the offense a chance to get involved. That involvement came in the middle three innings, when the Orioles got nine of their 13 hits off left-hander Mike Magnante and right-handed reliever Rusty Meacham (4-1).
Devereaux started the Orioles comeback with a single to open a three-run fourth and capped it with his two-out, bases-loaded single in the sixth to drive in the two runs that ultimately decided the game. In between, Joe Orsulak got a key two-run single and Jeff Tackett's fourth home run of the year forged a 4-all tie in the fifth inning.
Frohwirth's performance was the third straight excellent outing by an Orioles long reliever. Davis went four innings to nail down Monday night's 7-1 win over Milwaukee, and Alan Mills pitched a powerful 3 1/3 innings in Tuesday night's 8-4 win over the Brewers.
For Frohwirth, the outing couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Before last night's game, 25 of the previous 54 hitters he faced had reached base -- and 12 of his 25 inherited runners had scored.
"He really hasn't been hit that hard," manager Johnny Oates said in defense of Frohwirth. "It's not like they've hit a lot of line drives in the [outfield] gaps.
"This time the ball went at people, and that hasn't happened to him lately. He needs to pitch, and tonight [last night] he was well-rested. His performance definitely was a plus."
McDonald gave up seven hits and four runs before departing after 3 1/3 innings, and his difficulties this month continue to mystify Oates.
"There's enough stuff there to get people out," said Oates. "I don't know what it is. He threw a pitch ankle-high [to George Brett] and it went over the fence."
Brett's third homer of the year started a three-run third for the Royals that led to McDonald's early dismissal. But, after being blanked routinely over the first three innings, the Orioles quickly responded with three runs off Magnante, though they hardly pounded him into submission.
A bases-loaded walk to Leo Gomez and Orsulak's single accounted for the three runs, and then Tackett led off the next inning with his fourth homer of the year. "I'm not swinging for the fences," said Tackett, who has replaced the injured Chris Hoiles as the Orioles' regular catcher.
"I haven't even figured myself out yet," said Tackett, whose home runs have come in only 41 at-bats. "I'm not swinging for the fence, but things just seem to be going that way."
Devereaux pinned the first defeat of the year on Meacham with his clutch hit in the sixth inning. A single by Gomez and a double by Bill Ripken set the stage for a two-out intentional walk to Brady Anderson, setting the table just the way the Orioles like it.
With the bases loaded, the Orioles are hitting .421 (24-for-57 with eight walks).
"I didn't want to try and hit a home run, I was just trying to hit it where it was pitched," Devereaux said.
"It definitely wasn't down [in the strike zone], but it was on the outside third of the plate -- a sinker that didn't sink."
Frohwirth preserved the lead through the seventh, when the Orioles missed a chance to add to it after Cal Ripken extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a leadoff double. Davis stifled the Royals in the eighth before Olson picked up a save that wasn't quite routine.
Mike Macfarlane greeted Olson with a fly ball that carried over the heads of Orsulak and Devereaux and dropped for a triple in right-center field. When Brian McRae followed with a walk, Olson was faced with the potential go-ahead run.
However, first baseman David Segui, a late-inning replacement for Randy Milligan, was involved in a key double play, with Macfarlane scoring the Royals' final run. Keith Miller looped a single to left, but Gregg Jefferies grounded out to end the game.
The win, witnessed by the 13th straight sellout crowd at Oriole Park (45,710), kept the Orioles within one game of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays, who beat the Cleveland Indians last night. It was also the Orioles' fourth straight win over the Royals this year.