The roars returned to Camden Yards last night. So did the offense. So did the defense. And so did veteran pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, just in the nick of time.
A gutty, often brilliant performance by Sutcliffe, a 14-hit barrage that included bases-empty home runs by Mike Devereaux and Chito Martinez and the first triple play by the Orioles in two years resulted in a 9-1 win over the California Angels. The victory broke a three-game losing streak for the second-place Orioles, and cut the Toronto Blue Jays' lead to two games.
Sutcliffe, who left the team Sunday following the death of his mother, was almost unhittable. He retired the first 12 batters he faced, and 19 of the first 22. He gave up four hits and one walk, and struck out four before being replaced by Gregg Olson to start the ninth.
"All I know is that I saw him for the first time at 6 o'clock [last night] and I don't think he said a word until he came off in the eighth," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "I asked him if he had had enough and he said, 'Yes.' That was the only thing he said to me the whole night."
Sutcliffe politely declined to talk about his performance. Saying only that "I've had a rough couple of days," a red-eyed, emotionally drained Sutcliffe dressed quickly and left. He was to return to Kansas City, Mo., today. His mother, Louise Bloss, 55, who died of cancer, will be buried Friday.
It was the third straight win for Sutcliffe (13-11) and, under the circumstances, one of the most impressive performances of his 16-year major-league career. Sutcliffe outpitched former teammate Bert Blyleven (7-6). It was the first time Sutcliffe, 36, was matched against Blyleven, 41.
"Sutcliffe pitched a good game, especially with what happened to his mother," said Angels interim manager John Wathan. "That took a tremendous amount of concentration."
After seeing an early bid for a perfect game and no-hitter broken up by consecutive batters in the fifth, Sutcliffe saw a line drive by Gary Gaetti to third basemen Leo Gomez turn into a triple play. It was the play that seemed to lift the Orioles, who were leading 3-0 at the time.
"I wasn't looking for a triple play, I just didn't want the guy to score," said Gomez, who allowed the first Angels runner on base when he misplayed Tim Salmon's leadoff grounder. "The first thing that crossed my mind was to touch the bag because he got on because of my error, so it was kind of a makeup play. I caught the ball, and stepped on the bag, but I didn't have time to run across the field and tag first base [to get Chad Curtis, who was running on the pitch]. Maybe next time."
"That was the game," said Gaetti, who hit into his first triple play of his career after being part of six defensively. The crowd of 44,915 -- the 43rd straight sellout and 51st of the season -- responded with a standing ovation and Sutcliffe responded by pumping his fist. The Orioles, though, weren't finished making -- big defensive plays or scoring runs.
With the Orioles ahead 5-0, Sutcliffe had a bid for his third shutout this season broken up in the eighth. The Angels (58-69) loaded the bases with one out, scored their only run, but neat defensive stops by Gomez and first baseman David Segui ended the rally.
"It was probably more emotional for him than it was for us, but we wanted to give him a win more than anything," said Brady Anderson, who stole his 42nd base of the year to tie Al Bumbry for third on the Orioles all-time single-season list. "The triple play really fired him up. The couple of times they hit it right at us fired him up. It was nice we got him some runs, even though he didn't need it."
The Orioles sent 10 men to bat in the bottom of the eighth, and added four runs. The 14 hits against four California pitchers equaled the most they've had in two months. Martinez had his first three-hit game this season. Gomez, Randy Milligan and Chris Hoiles each had two hits.
Hoiles drove in the first run with a two-out double to left in the second. Devereaux followed with his team-leading 19th home run, tying his career high, in the third, and Martinez hit his fifth home run of the year in the fifth. The home run by Devereaux was the first by an Orioles' No. 3 hitter since Cal Ripken's last home run 57 games ago.
"It was good to see the bats come around," said Oates. "That's what makes this game so fun. You get some hitting and get some pitching and you look like a different ballclub." Angels-Orioles scoring Orioles second: C. Ripken walked. Martinez grounded to shortstop DiSarcina, C. Ripken to second. Gomez grounded to shortstop DiSarcina, C. Ripken to third. Hoiles doubled down the left-field line, C. Ripken scored. B. Ripken struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 1, Angels 0.
Orioles third: Anderson grounded to second baseman Sojo. Milligan grounded to pitcher Blyleven. Devereaux homered to left on 0-2 count. G. Davis fouled to right fielder Salmon. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 2, Angels 0.