O's fall to Brewers, drop 4 back Hard-luck McDonald beaten by Eldred, 2-0, in duel of three-hitters

September 18, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers are the only American League East team that has been mathematically eliminated from the division race, but that did not keep them from putting a dent in the Orioles' playoff hopes last night.

Right-hander Cal Eldred pitched a three-hit shutout and out-dueled hard-luck starter Ben McDonald en route to 2-0 victory that pushed the Orioles four games out of first place with 15 to play.

The Blue Jays continued to roll in Minnesota, winning their sixth straight game, 4-2, to make life increasingly difficult for the other contenders. It is not hopeless, but last night was not helpful to an Orioles club that has to stay close to make the big final-weekend showdown with Toronto meaningful.

"You don't want to dig this thing any deeper," manager Johnny Oates said. "They [the Blue Jays] are playing well. We've got five games left on the road and we've got to start swinging the bats a little better."

McDonald did his part, giving up just three hits over eight innings in another in a series of strong performances, but he gave up a bases-empty home run and allowed a run to score on a wild pitch to drop his record back to .500 at 12-12.

"We've said before we couldn't afford to go home and be four or five games out," McDonald said. "We need to get things started here. We need to win the last two games here and sweep Cleveland and go home two or three games back. I think that's a realistic goal. If we go home five or six games out, it's going to be real tough."

The Orioles had dominated the Brewers in a four-game sweep at Camden Yards in August and were banking on a big run through Milwaukee and Cleveland to position themselves for a 10-game season-ending homestand. The Brewers are 22 games under .500, so they have little to entertain themselves but the prospect of playing the spoiler over the final two weeks of the division race.

The way McDonald has been pitching lately, the Orioles figured to need only a run or two to give themselves a chance to win. He entered the game with a string of three straight victories in which he had lasted into the eighth inning or later and given up just one run.

If only he had been able to depend on consistent run support this year, he might be one of the big winners in the American League, but the Orioles have averaged just 3.72 runs for every nine innings he has pitched. There are only three pitchers in the league who have gotten less support.

The complete-game performance dropped his ERA to 3.14 and tied him with Boston Red Sox left-hander Frank Viola for fifth in the league in that department.

"That's the fourth or fifth time I've been shut out," McDonald said. "It's gotten to the point where I expect the game to be 0-0 or 1-0 every time I pitch. I just go out and try to pitch the way I can pitch."

To be exact, McDonald has come up on the wrong end of a shutout five times. In seven other starts, the Orioles have scored two runs or fewer.

Last night was another good example. McDonald gave up just one hit through the first five innings and still found himself on the wrong side of a 1-0 pitching duel. His one mistake pitch -- a 2-0 fastball to catcher Dave Nilsson -- landed just inside the foul pole in the right-field corner for a second-inning home run.

The Orioles never did figure out Eldred, who had split two previous starts against them this year. He did not give up a hit until Brady Anderson bounced a fly ball over the right-center-field fence for a ground-rule double with two outs in the third.

That turned out to be a break for the Brewers. Chris Hoiles had walked to lead off the inning and would have scored on the play if the ball had not bounced into the Brewers bullpen. Mark McLemore worked Eldred for a walk to load the bases, but Mike Devereaux bounced weakly to second to end the inning.

Devereaux was almost automatic in bases-loaded situations a year ago. He batted .520 and led the league with 13 bases loaded hits and 38 RBI, but the law of averages has caught up with him this year. In 19 bases-loaded at-bats this year, he has just three hits.

McDonald struggled briefly with his control in the fourth inning, handing two-out walks to Greg Vaughn and Robin Yount before dodging a second bullet by Nilsson. This time, Nilsson hit a line drive that was run down by McLemore in right field.

It seemed like Nilsson was around every time McDonald ran into trouble. The Brewers set up their second run of the game with a pair of fluky hits and scored on a wild pitch while Nilsson was at the plate.

The Orioles were badly in need of a change of fortune, but it was not to come. They had come from ahead in a pair of losses in Boston and suddenly found their offensive lineup in handcuffs against the last-place Brewers.

Eldred re-established himself in a hurry after getting out of the bases loaded jam in the third. He didn't give up another hit until the seventh and was not threatened seriously again. There was little reason to wonder why he is the winningest pitcher on the Brewers staff.

The only Orioles player with any clue at all was Anderson, who followed up the double with an infield hit to lead off the sixth, but he was thrown out stealing.

AL EAST RACE

Team .. .. .. .. .. .W .. .. .L .. .. Pct. .. .. .GB

Toronto .. .. .. ...84 . . ..63.. .. .571.. .. .. --

New York .. .. .. ..82 .. ...67.. .. .550 .. .. ...3

Orioles .. .. .. ...80 .. ...67.. .. .544 .. .. ...4

Yesterday's results

Milwaukee 2, Orioles 0

Toronto 4, Minnesota 2

New York 5, Boston 4

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