TORONTO -- When Todd Stottlemyre last left a pitching mound, he was doubly embarrassed.
Not only had he let a 3-0 lead rapidly disintegrate, but he also had been needlessly thrown out of the game because of a rule misinterpretation. His only salvation was that the Toronto Blue Jays came from behind to register one of their two wins on the just-completed seven-game road trip to Boston and Detroit.
After that game Wednesday, Stottlemyre was in bad need of a pick-me-up. Of all the starting pitchers with at least 100 innings, he had the highest ERA in the American League (5.13). His record was 6-7 and his team was in danger of losing its grip on the AL East race.
Enter the Orioles. Just the tonic Stottlemyre needed.
"I don't know how to explain it, other than every time I pitch against them I seem to have good stuff," the right-hander said after the Blue Jays' 8-4 win.
After allowing only five hits and two runs last night, Stottlemyre's career record is 46-47 -- but he is 6-0 lifetime, with a 1.49 ERA, against the Orioles.
The matchup couldn't have come at a better time for the division leaders. They had been hammered in three straight games by the Tigers and their pitching staff was in disarray.
"Two things usually happen to a bullpen -- it's either underworked or overworked," Stottlemyre said. "This time, ours was overworked. I wasn't going out there to pitch seven innings; I was going out there to win.
"At least this time I didn't get thrown out," he said.
He obviously didn't get knocked out, either, and the result provided him with a needed lift.
"It [his experience in Boston] was an embarrassing moment for me," he said. "Not only did I give up four runs after we had gotten three right away, but I was thrown out arguing a play on which I was clearly wrong."
On the play in question, Stottlemyre thought he had executed a force play at third base, when, in fact, the infield fly rule was in effect and the runner had to be tagged on the play. "It was very embarrassing," said Stottlemyre. "I felt like I wasn't doing my job."
He did his job last night, and said the first of a four-game series against the Orioles was more than just another starting assignment. "Yeah, I think maybe I was a little more pumped up than usual," he said.
"Whenever you're playing games in your own division -- whether you're chasing or being chased -- those are games you want to win," he said. But he said there was only normal, not additional, pressure.
"I put enough pressure on myself to do well," he said. "It's been a tough season for me so far. What I've got to do is put everything behind me and go out like it's a whole new season."
If Stottlemyre can maintain that outlook the rest of the year, he would please manager Cito Gaston even more than himself.
Gaston said that Stottlemyre's inclination to come unglued has kept him from stepping up as a consistent winner.
"Some people get mad and they play better," Gaston said before last night's game. "Some get mad and they can't play.
"When I got mad, I played better," said the Blue Jays manager. "I think Todd loses it a little when he gets mad. He's got to get himself together one of these days. It [his temper] is not helpful to him."
Just as they had done the last time he pitched, the Blue Jays gave Stottlemyre a comfortable early lead. This time, he didn't let it get away. And there were no signals from the umpires to misinterpret.
All he had to do was keep the Orioles' bats quiet. And he demonstrated, once again, that he knows how to do that.