McDonald aces Red Sox test O's beat Clemens to stop slide, 4-0

August 01, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

Maybe the waiting is over. Maybe the Ben McDonald who was supposed to develop into one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball has arrived just in time.

The Orioles can only hope, but McDonald looked like a pitcher for the pennant stretch in last night's 4-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.

He carried a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning and got the best of Red Sox ace Roger Clemens as the Orioles brought an end to a four-game losing streak. The win kept them four games out of first place in the American League East.

Somebody had to step up. The Orioles have been losing ground tothe top three division contenders all week, but this didn't figure to bea get-well game -- not with Clemens on the mound and the Red Sox on a 28-7 roll.

"Going in, there are other people you'd rather face when you've lost four in a row," said manager Johnny Oates.

Clemens also took a solid performance into the eighth, but even he was overshadowed by McDonald, who gave up three singles over 7 1/3 innings and struck out eight on the way to his eighth victory of the year. He looked like he was on his way to his second complete-game shutout in three starts, but Oates turned the game over to the bullpen after a one-out single by pinch hitter Ernest Riles brought the potential tying run to the plate in the eighth inning.

That strategy has cost McDonald a few times this year, but Mark Williamson came on to get the next two batters and the Orioles padded a two-run lead with a two-run single by Chris Hoiles in the bottom of the eighth. Gregg Olson finished up by striking out the heart of the Boston batting order in the ninth in a non-save situation.

McDonald, who earlier in the year had complained about being lifted too soon, endorsed the decision to turn the game over to the bullpen. He had thrown 121 pitches, and there were still five outs to go.

"Complete games and shutouts don't mean that much to me," he said. "I could have stayed out there and thrown 150 pitches, but that's what bullpens are for. It's more important to be fresh for my next outing. It's been shown that guys who throw 140 pitches are not as fresh the next time out."

The Orioles are going to need him to stay strong if they are to have any hope of a successful run at the division title. He showed last night that he is ready for prime time, but there may be bigger games ahead.

"There's a long, long way to go," McDonald said. "There's no reason to get too excited, but we needed to keep pace with the other teams ahead of us. It was a big win, but I don't know if it was a must win."

He obviously was taking his matchup against Clemens pretty seriously. He struck out the first four batters he faced and carried a no-hitter into the fourth before Andre Dawson broke it up with a one-out single to center.

McDonald has been on an extended roll, though he was coming off a loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at the Metrodome. He gave up four runs in that game after allowing three runs or fewer in 14 consecutive starts. In the game before that, he threw a one-hitter against David Cone and the Kansas City Royals.

There was a time when McDonald was projected to be in the same class as Clemens, but injuries and inconsistency have slowed his emergence as a dominating pitcher. Could it be that he has finally reached that level?

"He's a big, hard-throwing, aggressive pitcher," said Red Sox manager Butch Hobson, "but give him time. Clemens has done it for a few years. He has won some Cy Young Awards and had several 20-win seasons. This guy needs a little time."

Clemens has had a great deal of success against the Orioles, but he can say that about a lot of teams. He came into the game with a 10-4 lifetime record and a 2.20 career ERA against $H Baltimore, but struggled in the middle innings.

Both starters retired the side in order in the first and second, but the Orioles loaded the bases in the third and got a break when Mike Devereaux chopped a ball high off the plate to drive in the first run of the game.

Clemens surrendered another run in the fourth, when Hoiles singled through the middle and first baseman David Segui drove a double up the alley in left-center to score the run. By the time he gave way to reliever Tony Fossas in the eighth, he had surrendered four runs on 10 hits.

It was the first time in four starts that Clemens has given up morethan one run. He had worked 21 2/3 innings in his previous three games and given up three runs (1.25 ERA) and 15 hits. He wasn't quite as dominating last night, but he might have carried a shutout into the eighth if he could have figured out a way to keep Segui off base. The Orioles first baseman hit safely in his first three at-bats and contributed to the modest rallies in the third and fourth.

"I threw everything I had at them except my uniform, my hat and myglove," said Clemens. "We just got beat tonight."

It wasn't all smooth sailing for McDonald either.

Dawson had struck out in the second inning, but the Orioles didn't figure to get past his spot in the order all night. He started the eight-run assault on the Orioles pitching staff the night before with a three-run homer and hit a line drive in each of four at-bats in the series opener.

His third hit of the series didn't seem to fluster McDonald, who came right back to get Mo Vaughn to ground into an inning-ending double play.

McDonald got in trouble in the fifth when Ivan Calderon led off the inning with a single and Scott Cooper drew a no-out walk. Shortstop John Valentin moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt, but McDonald struck out Tony Pena and got Scott Fletcher to ground weakly to second to end the threat.

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