McDonald looks beyond numbers Durability, not 10-11, tells tale for McDonald By: Jim Henneman

September 03, 1993|By Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, CALIF — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ben McDonald won't get his satisfactio from victories this year. But if he is able to maintain the course he's on through the end of the season, he'll have an accomplishment worth noting.

"I'd love to have more wins, I think I could have about 15 now, but it doesn't always go like that," said McDonald, who improved to 10-11 with a 5-1, complete-game victory over the California Angels Wednesday night.

"What I've gotten the most satisfaction from is being able to go out there and pitch every fifth day. That, and innings pitched [179].

"I've made 63 starts now without missing a turn, and I'm proudest of that. If I can finish off and go two years without missing a turn that would be very important to me. I don't think too many guys have done that."

On the heels of Mike Mussina's 8 2/3 -inning performance in Tuesday night's 8-2 win, McDonald turned it up another notch with his effort 24 hours later, which included a career-high 10 strikeouts. Those games were enough to get the attention of Angels manager Buck Rodgers.

"Those two games were as good as any we've seen back-to-back all year," said Rodgers. "It was a case of good pitching prevailing. Their young pitchers shut us down and our rookie pitchers [Phil Leftwich and Mark Holzemer] didn't shut them down.

"McDonald had his forkball and curveball working as well as I've seen -- and he does a real good job of keeping his fastball down. They've got their two horses [Mussina and McDonald] going good right now and it's tough to beat them when they're on like in those two games."

McDonald said he knew going into the game that he had a better fastball than he'd had in his three previous starts. "I don't know what it was, I wasn't hurting or anything, but it seemed like I went through a little 'dead arm' period there. But going into the game [Wednesday], I knew I had better velocity and I told myself there was no reason I shouldn't throw first-pitch strikes and get ahead of the hitters."

Pitching coach Dick Bosman said McDonald's efficiency on the first pitch and his consistency with breaking balls was the key to his latest effort. "Good pitchers do that," said Bosman.

"I don't care how good your fastball is, you've got to be able to throw breaking balls for strikes. And those first-pitch strikes were not all fastballs."

McDonald agreed that his control with breaking pitches (he threw 23 of 30 for strikes, an unusually high percentage) was the key to his career-high 10 strikeouts.

"When I have a good breaking ball, I can strike out some people, but it's not that big a deal to me," said McDonald. "Strikeouts are good because they keep people off the bases, but that's about it."

The 10 strikeouts came on only 114 pitches, a low number for McDonald. "He had a low pitch count early in the game, and that's very important for him," said manager Johnny Oates. "He still had a goodfastball in the last inning."

McDonald will easily lead the Orioles in innings pitched, but he would need to average eight innings over his last six starts to match last year's total of 227.

"I'll be over 200 again, and that's good, but I won't make as many starts as last year [35] because we stayed with the regular rotation more than we did last year.

"Making every start, the innings pitched and the 'quality starts' are the three things I feel good about this year," said McDonald. "If I get moved up one day somewhere along the way I'll get six more starts."

Thanks to Oates' revised rotation for the rest of the season, McDonald will get his wish, and if everything goes according to schedule he will make his 34th start on either the next-to-last or last day of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays. "I want to pitch in that series, regardless [of the Orioles' standing]," he said. "I'd like the chance to beat them, especially if it means something."

If he finishes as scheduled, McDonald will have 69 starts over the past two seasons, which would rank him among the major-league leaders in that category. With victories tough to come by this year despite a 3.37 ERA that is eighth best in the American League, McDonald will draw a lot of consolation from his dependability.

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