Against Roger, 5-hit Orioles are over and out, 4-0 Clemens takes 1-hitter into 8th

May 12, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

It never figured to be anything but a mismatch. Boston Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens may be the best pitcher of his generation. The Orioles are trying to get through the next few weeks with a makeshift lineup that includes two Triple-A call-ups and enough struggling hitters to make a lot of lesser pitchers look good.

Never mind that the Orioles had won three in a row. This was a no-hitter waiting to happen, and Clemens didn't miss by all that much. He carried a one-hitter into the eighth before settling for a five-hit, 4-0 victory last night at Camden Yards.

"We were facing Zeus tonight," said Orioles starter Ben McDonald, who didn't pitch that badly himself. "The guy was incredible."

The Orioles didn't have a chance. Clemens struck out 13. He retired 18 of the first 20 batters he faced. The shutout was not seriously threatened until David Segui led off the eighth with a single and Damon Buford got the funniest-looking hit in the short history of Oriole Park.

Clemens got out of the eighth and survived two more hits in the ninth to pitch his first shutout of 1993. McDonald countered with a decent performance, but even a perfect nine innings would only have been good enough to send the game into overtime.

"That's the kind of game you have to put behind you and go on," manager Johnny Oates said. "Thank goodness you don't have to face him 162 times a year, because you'd be in trouble. He's the best."

It was apparent right from the start that it was going to be a long evening for the Orioles. Clemens retired the side in order in the first and struck out the side in the second. He was still striking people out in the ninth, and finished with his highest total of the season.

The Orioles only could hope that McDonald would find it in himself to throw an outstanding game. Little else was going to do against Clemens, who had lost two of his previous three starts and only raised his ERA to 2.03.

McDonald was coming off a horrible outing in Toronto in which he gave up four home runs in four innings and took a shot off his right heel. His performance was so erratic it raised more questions about his concentration on the mound.

There still was room to wonder last night, especially after he gave up a long home run to Ivan Calderon in the second inning. It was the seventh homer he had allowed in eight innings, and it was still early.

The home run barrage began two starts earlier, when Kansas City DH George Brett hit a sixth-inning homer and Brent Mayne knocked McDonald out of the game with a leadoff shot in the seventh.

It continued on Thursday at SkyDome, with homers by Darnell Coles and Pat Borders in the second inning, a two-run shot by Joe Carter in the third and a leadoff homer by Ed Sprague in the fourth. McDonald had suffered a bruised heel when Roberto Alomar hammered a ball off his foot in the first inning, but McDonald had not displayed any ill effects the past few days.

If Oates was looking for progress, he could point to the fact that McDonald kept the game from getting out of control the way it did in Toronto. He was not overpowering, but he recovered after the Calderon homer to pitch effectively into the seventh inning.

"I think it was evident that he was struggling with his breaking ball," Oates said, "but I think if a few things had gone right, we could have gone out for the sixth inning with one guy pitching a one-hitter and the other guy pitching a four-hitter."

The Red Sox added another run in the fourth, but it was more the result of an outfield snafu than poor pitching. Calderon lofted a one-out fly ball to left-center that fell at the feet of Buford and Brady Anderson for a two-base error charged to Buford. McDonald got the next batter, but John Valentin reached on an infield hit and Tony Pena lined a hit to right to give Clemens a 2-0 edge.

McDonald gave the Red Sox a major scare in the top of the sixth when a fastball got away from him and struck third baseman Scott Cooper on the helmet. Cooper stayed down for a tense minute, but got up to the cheers of the partisan Camden Yards crowd and went to first.

The Orioles were so overmatched in the early innings that they were forced to press the action on each rare occasion that they got someone on base. Harold Reynolds walked with one out in the third to become the first Baltimore base runner and promptly stole second to get into scoring position, but that's where he remained. Mark McLemore delivered the first Orioles hit to lead off the fourth and stole second one out later, but could advance no further.

"We had some good swings off him," Oates said, "but you know going in that most of his games are going to be 2-1 or 1-0, so you play for one run and you try to steal a base here and there. You're either a liar or a fool if you go into the game thinking that you're going to get a lot of runs off that guy."

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