Blue Jays rally in ninth to flaw McDonald gem Two-hit shutout turns to 2-1 loss for wasteful Orioles

June 30, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Toronto Blue Jays always seem to find a way. So the Orioles should not have been heartsick -- or particularly surprised -- when the defending World Series champions came from behind in the ninth inning last night to score a 2-1 victory at Camden Yards.

The Blue Jays do this kind of thing all the time. They defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in their last at-bat on Saturday night to keep the Orioles from inching within three games of first place. They have done it so many times to the Orioles in Toronto (eight times since the final series of 1989) that the statistic is listed in the Orioles' media guide.

Still, this one carried with it a special sting, because it came at the expense of hard-luck pitcher Ben McDonald, who had carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and a shutout into the ninth before suffering a deflating defeat. Blue Jays right-hander Pat Hentgen didn't pitch nearly as well, but the Orioles were only 1-for-13 with men in scoring position to help him to his 11th win.

McDonald gave up just three hits over eight-plus innings, but he surrendered a leadoff single to Roberto Alomar and a no-out walk to Paul Molitor in the ninth before turning the game over to the most effective bullpen in the major leagues.

He came within three outs of becoming the first pitcher to shut out the Blue Jays this year, but left-hander Brad Pennington had another run of tough luck and let the lead get away. He gave up a broken-bat single to John Olerud to tie the game and a base hit to Tony Fernandez to put the Blue Jays on top.

Closer Gregg Olson came on to work out of the two-on, no-out jam, but Blue Jays closer Duane Ward retired the side in order in the ninth to record his 22nd save.

When it was over, manager Johnny Oates was kicking himself for letting McDonald start the ninth inning, but what else could he do? How do you hook a pitcher who has given up two hits and thrown only 114 pitches -- even with a bullpen that has been the best in baseball.

"I'm going to make some mistakes," Oates said. "When I have a pitcher who's going good, I'm going to let him go out there. If I had it to do over again, I don't know if I would send him out there again. Knowing what I know now, obviously I wouldn't."

He would have been second-guessed heavily if he had gone to the bullpen to start the inning. Just ask McDonald.

"That was my game," he said. "I was definitely in command tonight. It really shouldn't have gotten to that point. We had our chances to score early. I don't know how many times we had a guy at third base with less than two outs and didn't score. We've got to execute better."

The second game of the three-game series took on extra importance after the Orioles were knocked around in the opener, 7-2. They had gained six games during their 18-3 run, but gave back two games in a hurry with losses Sunday and Monday. Nobody wanted to go into tonight's game faced with the possibility of falling eight games out of first place.

McDonald took the assignment to heart. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and threw his best game of the year, only to see his record drop to 4-7.

It was just the latest in a series of solid starts that have re-established him as one of the top young pitchers in the American League. He has given up three runs or fewer in each of his past nine starts.

Of course, there have been too many times when it seemed as if McDonald would have to throw a no-hitter to get a victory. He went winless from April 30 to June 18 despite several solid starts, finally scoring back-to-back victories against the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers to carry a modest winning streak into last night's game.

Once again, the overpowering performance last night wasn't enough to assure him of anything. The Orioles had better luck against Hentgen, but did not take advantage of a handful of early-inning opportunities. They had runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings, but scored just once -- on a one-out RBI single by rookie Jeffrey Hammonds in the fourth.

"I'm kind of used to that by now," said McDonald. "That's the way it has gone all year. I'm no stranger to that. But I knew that I was going to have to pitch well tonight. Their guy had 10 wins. I knew we weren't going to get eight runs tonight.

"But it's been a heck of a month. If I can give up seven runs in six games next month, I think I'll be all

right."

The Blue Jays threatened to take control of the game before they had taken a productive swing of the bat, but only because McDonald's control wavered in the fourth. But after three walks -- one intentional to Olerud -- he got Ed Sprague to pop out to end the inning.

The no-hitter went down hard. McDonald got the first two outs of the fifth before No. 9 hitter Turner Ward dribbled a checked-swing single down the left-field line. Sprague delivered the first solid hit in the seventh, but McDonald continued to pitch efficiently.

Hentgen may not have been as overpowering, but he was very resourceful. How else do you allow 11 runners (nine hits and two walks) through seven innings and get away with just one run across? He showed why he has become the Blue Jays' most successful starter and why he has not lost since May 12.

HARD-LUCK BEN

Although last night may have been Ben McDonald's best outing, it also was first time he had yielded more than one earned run in his past six starts:

Date .. Opp. .. Dec. .. IP .. H .. ER .. .. K

6/01 .. Oak .. ..L .. .. 4 .. 3 .. 1.. .. ..2

6/07 .. Oak .. ..ND .. ..6 2/3 ..4 .. 1.. .. ..3

6/12 .. Bos .. ..ND .. ..7 .. 6 .. 1.. .. ..7

6/18 .. Cle .. ..W .. .. 6 1/3 ..7 .. 1.. .. ..3

6/24 .. Det .. ..W .. .. 5 1/3 ..6 .. 1.. .. ..7

6/29 .. Tor.. .. L .. .. 8 .. 3 .. 2.. .. ..7

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