Deplaned Orioles still flying, 5-1 Bring winning act home for 8th in row, backing McDonald

September 07, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Orioles brought the pennant race home to Camden Yards last night and quickly added to the intrigue with a 5-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

There was no letdown. No overnight flight fatigue. Not at this point in a season that suddenly is beginning to look like it might turn into something special.

Right-hander Ben McDonald pitched a strong 7 1/3 innings to carry the Orioles to their eighth straight victory and pull them within two games of first place in a three-team American League East race.

The Toronto Blue Jays were idle and the New York Yankees lost in Texas to fall out of a first-place tie, making it another perfect night for an Orioles club that had just returned from a very productive tour of three AL West cities.

"I said in January that it's going to be the closest division race in history," manager Johnny Oates said. "I don't know if the next few weeks will bear that out, but I felt that Toronto had come back a little and everybody else had improved."

During the past eight days, the Blue Jays have come back a lot and the Orioles have improved dramatically, closing from six games to two games.

"We just need to keep playing well," said McDonald, who evened his record at 11-11. "I personally think we're going to be there for the final series of the year. Fortunately, Toronto is in a little tailspin right now and we're starting to win. We don't have the talent or experience of Toronto or New York, but we think we can win."

McDonald gave up a run on six hits, leaving after a one-out single by Ken Griffey in the eighth. Reliever Alan Mills came on to get out of the inning and went on to record his second save of the year.

If it seemed like an early exit, McDonald had an explanation. He was stricken with an upset stomach early in the game and was fortunate to go as far as he did.

"He looked dehydrated," Oates said. "He was white as a sheet. I thought we'd be lucky to get seven out of him. But he had a good inning in the seventh and was able to go out for the eighth."

It was not a tremendously eventful evening, but the sellout crowd of 46,085 made the most of a handful of moments. Utility man Jack Voigt got a standing ovation for a second-inning home run that could have stood alone. Mike Devereaux broke out of a lengthy slump with a home run in the fifth. Mark McLemore brought the crowd to life again with a bases-loaded single in the eighth.

The biggest ovation, however, was reserved for McDonald, who won for the seventh time in his past 10 decisions. He and Mike Mussina have emerged as the kind of one-two pitching punch that just might carry the club into the postseason.

It was the first time the Mariners had visited Camden Yards since the June 6 brawlgame that resulted in eight ejections, seven suspensions and a couple of very sore starting pitchers, but there was no renewal of hostilities.

The only altercation was an intramural affair between manager Johnny Oates and first baseman Glenn Davis about 75 minutes before game time.

The Orioles were all business on the field, where they were attaining their third winning streak of eight games or more this year. They had just returned from a 7-2 road trip that had rekindled their fading division title aspirations, so it was just a matter of overcoming a case of coast-to-coast jet lag in time to keep the roll alive.

McDonald figured to be just the guy to extend the streak. He pitched a four-hitter against the California Angels in his previous start and set a career high with 10 strikeouts, which only embellished an impressive three-month run in which he has given up three earned runs or fewer in 16 of his past 19 starts.

He was sharp again last night, but he flirted with big trouble in the second inning, when four straight Mariners reached base with one out. Dave Valle gave Seattle the lead with a bases-loaded single, but McDonald found his way out of the inning fortunate that only one run crossed the plate.

The Orioles took advantage of an ugly defensive play to come right back in the bottom of the second inning. Mariners first baseman Dave Magadan bobbled a bouncer by Mike Pagliarulo and then threw the ball past Seattle starter Dave Fleming covering first.

Tim Hulett followed with a fly ball that would have ended the inning, but Fleming had to face one more batter.

Enter Voigt, who keeps finding ways to make himself useful. He hit a drive to left-center field that settled easily into the bleachers for his fifth home run and 17th and 18th RBI of the year.

It was not an isolated incident. Voigt led the club with a .348 batting average in August and ranked second only to shortstop Cal Ripken with 16 runs scored.

Fleming did not throw the ball poorly. The home run by Voigt was the only solid hit he gave up through the first four innings, but he didn't figure to have much margin for error with McDonald on the mound for the Orioles.

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