McDonald finds way to stick Creativity proves his best pitch

August 06, 1993|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Staff Writer

When the Orioles selected Ben McDonald as the top pick in the 1989 amateur draft, they knew he had a strong arm and a lot of potential. Last night, the Orioles got a good look at his competitiveness.

On a night when the Orioles did not score a lot of runs or when McDonald had dominating stuff, he still posted dominating numbers.

McDonald went the distance, scattering eight hits and allowing one run and no walks.

Only one Brewer made it past first after the first inning, and McDonald threw just 44 pitches in the final four innings. McDonald also faced three batters over the minimum in the final six innings -- this from a pitcher with supposedly marginal stuff.

"It was a struggle," said McDonald, who struck out four Brewers. "I knew coming out of the bullpen, I didn't have my good stuff. So I had to be creative."

This creativity included different release points and different pitching motions.

The single run scored off McDonald occurred in the first inning. McDonald bounced a pitch in front of the plate that skipped away from catcher Jeff Tackett, and Robin Yount scored from third.

"I saw the ball skip, but I just watched," McDonald said of the wild pitch. "Yount had a good jump, but that run wouldn't have scored if I was paying attention."

In his past six starts, the 6-foot-7 right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.05 ERA. He is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA at Camden Yards -- the lowest

home ERA of any American League pitcher.

"This is a hitters' ballpark," McDonald said. "I know I can't make a mistake in this ballpark."

In this recent stretch, McDonald has ascended to become the staff's stopper. Since he held Boston scoreless in a 7 1/3 -inning effort on July 31, Orioles starters have combined for 17 2/3 innings pitched, 21 hits allowed and posted a 6.14 ERA.

"He continues to pitch very well. I don't know what else to say," manager Johnny Oates said.

"He's been a fisherman all of his life and he threw some curves like he was casting a fishing rod. They didn't come down. But he made some good pitches when he had to with his slider."

McDonald did not walk a single batter for the first time since July 4, and 76 of his 109 pitches were strikes.

"He has better control of all his pitches than in the beginning of the year," pitching coach Dick Bosman said.

"That's a pretty good weapon to have -- the ability to throw all your pitches over the plate."

His ERA for the season dropped to 3.03, which is third lowest in the American League. McDonald has completed two of his past four starts and has thrown over 100 pitches in his past six starts.

The victory placed the Orioles only three games in back of Toronto, which had lost before McDonald stepped onto the mound.

"I didn't know they played this afternoon," McDonald said. "I am not watching the scoreboard yet."

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