This is all you need to know about the Orioles offensive performance in last night's 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals:
Outfielder Brady Anderson went 0-for-6 and was named Home Team Sports Player of the Game.
That might not be so unusual if Anderson had made some fantastic defensive plays to force the game into extra innings, but it wasn't like that. He was honored because he hit a routine fly ball in the bottom of the 14th inning.
His soft line drive to medium-deep right field scored pinch runner Steve Scarsone from third base and pushed the Royals to the brink of a three-game sweep at Oriole Park. The victory also kept the Orioles within four games of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays with 18 games left.
Anderson had to laugh. He had flied out four other times during the course of the 4 1/2 -hour marathon. He also had grounded out and flied out. So, he felt strangely confident when he went to the plate with runners at first and third with one out in the 14th.
"I'd been hitting the ball in the air all night, so I knew I had a pretty good chance," he said. "If I'd had a few guys on third base tonight, I could have been 0-for-3 with four sacrifice flies."
The Orioles were happy to settle for one soft line drive at the right time, even if the right time came about two hours later than expected. The victory was critical to their chances of climbing back to the top of the standings. They cannot afford to lose any more ground.
But Anderson's fly ball was just the happy ending to a 14th-inning rally that hinged on the aggressive turn that Scarsone made at second base a couple of minutes earlier.
Scarsone, making only his fourth appearance as an Oriole, entered the game to pinch run after Leo Gomez started things off with a one-out single. Tim Hulett followed with a hit-and-run line drive that glanced off the hip of Royals reliever Bill Sampen and dribbled into the area that had just been vacated by shortstop Curtis Wilkerson.
The ball barely cleared the fringe of the infield, but Scarsone never broke stride. He sprinted into third base to set up the game-winning play.
"I saw the ball go off the pitcher, and I was just fortunate that the play was right in front of me," Scarsone said.
"I thought it was a gamble, but with one out in the 14th inning, you've got to go for broke right there. That's no time to get conservative."
The Orioles weren't trying to be conservative through the first 13 innings. It just looked that way. They ran off 10 hits in the first six innings, but got just a second-inning run that also was scored on a sacrifice fly.
Cal Ripken had three hits for the second night in a row, and Mike Devereaux pulled out of a 4-for-30 slump with three singles, but left-hander Arthur Rhodes was largely on his own until the Orioles bullpen took over in the eighth inning.
Rhodes carried a shutout bid into the eighth, but the Royals scored a run to tie and cost him a chance to record his sixth victory. Instead, it was Storm Davis who would get victory No. 6 for two innings of scoreless relief.
"I thought Arthur did a very good job," manager Johnny Oates said. "We approached this a lot like we approached his game in Seattle [when Rhodes pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings]. Dick [Bosman] told him to be aggressive and throw everything in the strike zone. He was better than he was in Seattle."
Rhodes surrendered six hits and had things under control until pinch-hitter Mike Macfarlane drove an RBI triple off the out-of-town scoreboard in right field. Reliever Todd Frohwirth came on to get him out of the jam and pitched four innings of two-hit relief, Jim Poole helped him out of the 12th and Davis gave up one hit in the last two innings to get the win.
Offense apparently is overrated. The Orioles have scored four runs in the first two games of the series, but can sweep when 15-game winner Mike Mussina takes on rookie Chris Haney in the series finale tonight.
The scoreboard watch began early last night. By the time the Orioles came to bat in the second inning, the out-of-town scoreboard reported that the Indians had taken a 3-0 lead over the Blue Jays at SkyDome. It wasn't long before the Orioles had jumped ahead against Royals starter Luis Aquino.
Ripken picked up right where he left off the night before, pulling ++ a line drive into the left-field corner for a leadoff double in the second inning. Joe Orsulak moved him to third with a fly ball to center field, and Chris Hoiles broke the scoreless tie with a long fly ball to right center.
It wasn't exactly a major offensive explosion, but the Orioles are taking what they can get right now. They entered the game having scored 16 runs in their previous eight games.
They also entered the game desperate for a solid start from Rhodes, whose consistency has been in question since he burst into the rotation in July and had four victories (and a no-decision) in his first five starts.
Rhodes lost his next four starts, then snapped out of it with 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a combined four-hit shutout at Seattle. But he struggled again in his last outing, giving up four runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings in the Orioles' 16-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Sept. 8.
He certainly has been inconsistent, but that didn't keep Oates from sending him to the mound with the Orioles' fading playoff hopes riding on his promising -- if slightly erratic -- left arm.