TORONTO -- There is something about SkyDome that brings out worst in the Orioles, who have turned this futuristic stadium into a high-tech house of pain more times than they would like to remember. Consider the chain of events that led to last night's 10-8 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays:
* Right-hander Ben McDonald gave up four home runs in the first four innings to blow an early three-run lead and bring back memories of a 1992 season in which he ranked among the major-league leaders in home runs allowed. Then he limped off the field with a foot injury that will require X-rays today.
* Reliever Alan Mills touched off a base-clearing confrontation in the seventh inning when he buzzed a fastball behind the head of Blue Jays shortstop Luis Sojo. No blows were thrown, but the angry words that were thrown around the Blue Jays clubhouse last night left room to wonder if the incident will soon be forgotten.
* Designated hitter Harold Baines followed center fielder Mike Devereaux onto the disabled list earlier in the day. He'll be lost for at least the next two weeks with a rib cage strain.
There were some positive moments, too, like Damon Buford's first major-league home run and a three-hit performance by Sherman Obando and even a late-inning comeback that almost got McDonald off the hook, but that was not enough to cheer manager Johnny Oates after another difficult defeat.
"There were too many other things tonight to get too excited," Oates said. "We didn't play very well tonight. We didn't pitch very well tonight. We didn't execute. Sure, you're glad to see guys keep battling, but you've got to eliminate those other things to win ballgames."
Oates didn't need any more headaches, but he came out of last night's game with a couple of new ones. McDonald took a line drive off his right foot in the first inning and could barely make his way across the clubhouse after the game. If he suffered anything more than a bruised heel, the Orioles will have another major hole to fill at a critical juncture in the season.
McDonald was hit just above the heel by a line drive off the bat of Roberto Alomar. He didn't appear to be in any pain during the next three innings, but the results speak for themselves.
"I'm not going to use that as an excuse," he said. "It was bothering me, but not enough to affect my pitching. I just threw some bad pitches."
The apparent brushback pitch by Mills also could become a bigger problem than it was last night. The benches emptied after Mills and Sojo exchanged unpleasantries, but the fact that there were no punches thrown does not necessarily mean that the incident won't come back to haunt the Orioles in some way.
The Blue Jays still were talking tough after the game, which left room to wonder if there will be some form of retaliation later in the series.
"Without a doubt, he threw at him," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "If you're going to throw at a guy, don't throw at his head. I think he should have been ejected."
Of course, the Blue Jays already had taken plenty of big swings at McDonald, who didn't know what to do with the three-run lead that washanded to him in the first inning. He got through the first, but gave up a two-run home run to Darnell Coles and a bases-empty shot to Pat Borders to tie the game in the second.
The Orioles regained the lead briefly in the third on an RBI single by Obando, who had three singles and just missed a home run in his other at-bat, but Toronto moved in front in the bottom of the inning on a towering two-run homer by Joe Carter.
Buford got the Orioles even one more time with a bases-empty home run in the fourth to knock rookie starter Scott Brow out of the game. Veteran pitcher Danny Cox came on to shut down the Orioles for four innings while the Blue Jays built a seemingly comfortable lead, and was credited with his second victory of the season.
It looked like it was turning into a blowout, especially when the Blue Jays kept right on scoring against Mills. They took a 9-5 lead into the eighth inning before Cox lost his middle-inning momentum and let the Orioles back into the game.
Closer Duane Ward eventually restored order and recorded his ninth save, but not before Chris Hoiles had driven a 3-0 pitch to the warning track in left that came very close to tying the game. And not before Obando came to the plate representing the go-ahead run with two outs only to strike out to end the game.
Orioles fourth: Buford homered to left on 2-1 count. Cox relieved Brow. Anderson struck out. McLemore lined out to center fielder White. Ripken struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 5, Blue Jays 5 .
Blue Jays fourth: Sprague homered to left on 1-0 count. Borders grounded out to shortstop Ripken. Sojo lined out to center fielder Buford. White ground
ed out to first baseman Segui. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. Blue Jays 6, Orioles 5.