Last night's Orioles-Minnesota Twins game was designated "Hits for the Homeless Night" by the Orioles' wives who were answering calls by television viewers who pledged donations for each hit during the contest.
Orioles starter Ben McDonald apparently was in the giving mood, surrendering six runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Trouble was, the money was pledged for Orioles hits, not Minnesota's, and the Twins escaped with a 6-5 win before 45,903 at Oriole Park.
The Orioles mustered a five-run rally in the seventh, capped by Tim Hulett's first home run of the season and Cal Ripken's first RBI in 16 games.
In the end, the Orioles could not close the 6-0 chasm McDonald had left and lost their second straight opportunity to gain a game on the Toronto Blue Jays, who lost, 3-1, to the Oakland Athletics.
The culprit for McDonald, whose ERA has doubled in two months from 2.44 to 5.00, was hits, which came early and often throughout his 103-pitch effort.
"You hate to give hitters credit, but they're a bunch of good hitters," said McDonald, whose record dropped to 8-6, after a 5-0 start.
"They hit some 0-2 pitches, some 1-2 pitches, some good pitches."
Indeed. The Twins rapped out eight singles, a third-inning double to Chili Davis and a home run to Shane Mack -- the 23rd McDonald has allowed this season, a major-league high. McDonald, though, was particularly irked by Mack's homer, which came on an 0-1 count.
"I had Mack where I wanted him, and I couldn't make the pitch," McDonald said.
The Orioles' seventh inning nearly got McDonald off the hook.
Randy Milligan led off with a walk, and Glenn Davis, who had been scratched from the two previous games with a sore back, followed with a single.
Hulett then hit his home run, a drive into the left-field seats, to cut the Twins' lead in half. David Segui struck out, then Bill Ripken doubled to left field.
Rick Dempsey, making his first start in an Orioles uniform in nearly six years, drew a walk. Brady Anderson then singled to left, loading the bases for Mike Devereaux, who was batting .571 with the bases loaded with two grand slams.
Devereaux lofted a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Bill Ripken and making the score 6-4.
Cal Ripken, in a 16-game RBI drought and an overall 4-42 slump, singled to left, driving in Dempsey. Milligan grounded to second, ending the rally.
Things appeared a bit brighter, but that was about all the offense the Orioles would generate all night.
"We put together one good inning. Other than that, we didn't do much," manager Johnny Oates said.
Save for that one inning, Minnesota starter Bill Krueger (9-2) and relievers Carl Willis and Rick Aguilera, however, choked off the Orioles for most of the night.
McDonald, who flirted with danger in the first three innings, embraced it wholeheartedly in the middle innings, giving up runs in the fourth and fifth.
In the fourth inning, Gene Larkin walked, moved to second on a grounder with two out, then scored when Chuck Knoblauch singled to left. Knoblauch was thrown out trying to advance on the throw home.
In the fifth, McDonald's bugaboo, the home run, revisited, as Mack hit a drive that landed five rows back in the left-field seats.
McDonald got into his final jam in the sixth, as Larkin led off with a single to center and Scott Leius followed with a single to left. Donnie Hill popped out to Cal Ripken down the third-base line for the first out.
XTC Knoblauch walked to load the bases, and Mack singled to right, driving in Larkin. Kirby Puckett hit a dribbler toward first base that Milligan mishandled for an error.
McDonald was done for the night, and Pat Clements, acquired Thursday on waivers from the San Diego Padres, came into precisely the situation the Orioles obtained him for: to face tough left-handed hitters, namely Kent Hrbek.
Hrbek, who came into the game with 32 career home runs and 92 RBI against Baltimore, singled to right, scoring Knoblauch and Mack, and victimizing the Orioles yet again.
McDonald has tailed off since starting 5-0. In his past 10 starts, the 6-foot-7 right-hander was 3-5 with a 6.38 ERA.
Last night, both McDonald and Dempsey cited the high humidity as a cause for his ineffectiveness.
"I guess he had a tough time with his curveball. It was really humid and once in a while, the ball would squirt out on him. You could tell on the breaking ball," Dempsey said.
McDonald teetered on the brink in each of the first three innings.
In the first inning, he walked the bases loaded with two outs, though Dempsey, handling McDonald for the first time, didn't help matters when the third strike on Mack skipped past him to the backstop.
"He [Dempsey] just hadn't seen me enough," McDonald said. "It was unfortunate that we had to work under those circumstances."
That put Mack on first with one out, and, after Puckett flied to right, McDonald walked Hrbek and Davis to load the bases. Brian Harper flied to center, ending the inning, though Devereaux nearly collided with Anderson before making the catch.
McDonald, who threw 27 pitches in the first inning, got into trouble in the second, as Leius singled to left and Hill singled to center with one out.
But Cal Ripken bailed McDonald out by catching Knoblauch's line drive up the middle, then stepping on second base to double-up Leius.
McDonald wasn't through walking the high wire. In the third, he climbed back on, giving up a two-out single to Hrbek and a double to Davis. But Harper, who left the bases loaded in the first, grounded to short to end the third. The Twins stranded six runners in the first three innings.