Moyer lifts weight from pounded O's with 1-0 victory Finley out-dueled in 4-hit shutout

August 25, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

No one, with the possible exception of the perennially positive-thinking Jamie Moyer, could have pictured this scenario when the season began.

The Orioles are trying to stay afloat in a crowded American League East race and one of the guys most responsible for keeping hope alive is a journeyman finesse pitcher who hasn't had a winning major-league season since his rookie year in 1986.

Moyer came through again last night, holding the California Angels to three hits in eight innings on the way to a 1-0 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Camden Yards.

After Orioles pitchers had given up 24 runs the previous two games, he delivered a masterful performance that included seven strikeouts and two walks to record his ninth victory of the year and keep the Orioles within 5 1/2 games of the division lead. Angels starter Chuck Finley was just as impressive, but a first-inning RBI single by Cal Ripken was all it would take to turn a two-hitter into his 10th loss of the year.

Lest anyone forget, it was Moyer who pitched a solid nine innings against the Seattle Mariners to halt the Orioles' eight-game losing streak. He has come up with a number of big performances this year, but none as important as the past two.

"I can honestly say that I didn't even think about that," he said. "I'm just going out there every time trying to be consistent with what I do.

"There was nothing new. . . nothing I've changed. I know it sounds like a broken record, but when I've pitched well, I'm doing pretty much the same things."

Moyer appeared to be on the way to his second straight complete game, but manager Johnny Oates brought on reliever Alan Mills to pitch the ninth and record his first save of the year.

The manager seemed to be in line for a serious second-guess when Mills gave up a leadoff single and a one-out walk, but Eduardo Perez bounced into a third-to-first double play to end the game.

Why did Oates make the change? Because Moyer had thrown 138 pitches in his previous start. Because he didn't want the right-handed heart of the Angels lineup to get a fourth crack at him. Because that's the way he almost always does it, even when his No. 1 closer is on the disabled list.

"It was my decision," Oates said. "That way, if we lose it's my fault and if we win it's his fault. If any of their big right-handed hitters is going to hit a home run to tie it up, I'd rather it be off Mills than Jamie. But the way Mills is throwing the ball right now, I thought he had a pretty good chance to get out of a hole."

Moyer took the mound with the weight of the Orioles' pitching staff on his shoulders. The twin torching the club took in the final two games of the four-game series with the Texas Rangers had '' left the starting rotation in crisis and the bullpen weary. The Orioles could scarcely afford another two-inning start.

They didn't have to worry about that last night. Moyer dominated the struggling Angels lineup from the outset, striking out the side open the game and giving up just one hit through the first 5 2/3 innings.

The Orioles have never done particularly well against Finley, who entered the game with a 6-3 lifetime record against them. But the big left-hander walked two of the first three batters he faced and gave up the two-out single to Ripken that brought home the only run either team would score.

Ripken continues to make a silk purse out of a sour year. The RBI was his 76th of the year, keeping him on pace to drive in nearly 100 over the course of the 162-game schedule. He recently reached 20 home runs for the 11th time in 12 major-league seasons and his 1-for-3 last night brought his average to .250. Not bad for a guy who was batting .216 with five home runs and 29 RBI on June 16.

"The reason that we won was because Jamie shut them down," %% Ripken said. "Chuck Finley is a tough pitcher and when he has his changeup working, he can be unhittable. We were just fortunate that we got the lead. He is not a fun guy to face."

The way things had gone the previous two games, the Orioles couldn't feel comfortable with a one-run lead. They had, after all, been hammered for 11 runs on Sunday and 13 more on Monday night. But Moyer has been one of the most pleasant surprises on a team that has needed a lot of unexpected help to stay afloat in the American League East.

He has made 19 starts for the Orioles this year and has given up two earned runs or fewer 12 times. If this keeps up, he figures to be a serious candidate for AL Comeback Player of the Year.

Of course, he wasn't exactly facing the Texas Rangers last night. The Angels got off to a surprising start this season, but the magic has worn thin in the second half. They were two games out of first place at the All-Star break, but a 10-game losing streak in July took them out of contention in a hurry.

Now, they have trying to salvage a respectable season with a youthful lineup that no longer seems particularly imposing.

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