The 64th All-Star Game created the closest thing to a postseason atmosphere that Baltimore has experienced in nearly decade, which only made it more ironic that the American League starting lineup was dominated by Toronto Blue Jays.
Second baseman Roberto Alomar didn't apologize for that, but he said yesterday that the Orioles have as good a chance as anyone -- including the Blue Jays -- of making it to baseball's postseason tournament this year.
"They've got a good team . . . good pitching," Alomar said. "The offense hasn't been that good for them, but if they get Mike Devereaux and Cal Ripken and Brady Anderson playing in the second half the way they are supposed to play, they are going to be tough."
The Orioles open the second half just 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East, which might have been inconceivable just six weeks ago. The Blue Jays also had to recover from a slow start to take over first place, but closed out the first half with 10 losses in 11 games.
"I think that everybody needs the [All-Star] break," Alomar said. "Everybody goes through struggles, but you have to remember that a month ago we were seven games back and today we're in first place."
The Detroit Tigers held the division lead for most of the first half, but the Blue Jays, Orioles and New York Yankees have converged on the top spot to make the AL East baseball history's tightest four-way race at the All-Star break.
"That makes it more exciting," Alomar said, "because everybody's close. It's always exciting, but you give it a little more push in this situation. If you were nine games out, it wouldn't be the same feeling."
Last night's matchup of left-handed starters (Terry Mulholland and Mark Langston) was an All-Star rarity. The last time it happened was 1961, when the Yankees' Whitey Ford and the Braves' Warren Spahn were the starters.
In the 64 All-Star games that have been played since 1933, only seven times have left-handers started for both teams.
Langston was the fourth Angels' pitcher to start an All-Star game, following Ken McBride (1963), Dean Chance (1964) and Nolan Ryan (1979).
One day after Ken Griffey Jr. became the first player to hit the warehouse on the fly, in the home run hitting contest during Monday's workout, there was another Camden Yards first.
When Ivan Rodriguez lined a double to start the fifth inning, the ball lodged in the padding on the left-field wall. Although the play is not specifically covered in the ground rules for Camden Yards, umpire Dale Scott, working the left-field line, immediately called a ground-rule double on the play.
Van Slyke an Oriole?
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andy Van Slyke, who is on the National League team, but didn't play because of an injury, hinted yesterday that he might like to play in Baltimore.
"This is going to be a healthy and wealthy franchise for a lot of years," he said. "I spoke with someone when Devereaux went down and they were inquiring about me. If that had happened in April and May in Pittsburgh, heads would have rolled."
The Orioles are known to be interested in offensive help, but the outfield is crowded. Manager Johnny Oates still is trying to figure out how to get enough playing time for the outfielders he has.
Braves close to McGriff?
The Orioles are known to be interested in San Diego Padres first baseman Fred McGriff, but there were rumors flying in the National League clubhouse that the Atlanta Braves were close to acquiring him.
Manager Bobby Cox was behind closed doors talking with general manager John Schuerholz for a prolonged period before last night's game, but did not shed any light on the possibility.
Hacker condition still guarded
Blue Jays third-base coach Rich Hacker remained in guarded condition in a St. Louis hospital -- two days after suffering multiple injuries in an automobile accident.
Hacker underwent surgery to repair extensive damage to his right foot and remains under close observation with a severe head injury, said Blue Jays public relations director Howard Starkman.
The All-Star selection process has come under great criticism in Baltimore, where fans and players alike felt that Gregg Olson and Chris Hoiles deserved to be on the team, prompting Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson to offer a solution.
"I'd like to see them drop the one-player-from-each-team requirement and expand the team to 32 players each," he said. "I know it's very hard to get everyone into the game as it is, but the important thing is being here."
Robinson also advocates using one of the extra spots for a career achievement selection.
"I'd like to have seen a Carlton Fisk or a Nolan Ryan here this year," he said.