McDonald gets Orioles back in swing, 9-1 Two-hitter over Yankees ends 5-game losing streak

September 29, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

The Orioles finally started to swing back last night.

They had been cuffed around for much of the past two weeks, but rose up and hammered the New York Yankees, 9-1, to revive hope of a second-place finish.

Right-hander Ben McDonald pitched a two-hitter and actually got some offensive support to bring an end to the five-game losing streak that had left the team in danger of tumbling all the way into fourth place.

The victory pulled the Orioles to within 1 1/2 games of the second-place Yankees with left-hander Jamie Moyer scheduled to face 17-game winner Jimmy Key in the series finale tonight at Camden Yards. They need to win the series to have any realistic possibility of cashing the runner-up share of the divisional purse.

Catcher Chris Hoiles swung the bat like a guy who doesn't want to settle for less. He doubled home the first two runs of the game in the first inning and hit his 27th home run in the seventh to lead an offensive assault that also included a three-RBI performance by second baseman Harold Reynolds.

Reynolds doubled home two runs in the fourth and added another RBI double in the eighth to help the team to its biggest output since the Orioles scored 11 runs against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 14. In the meantime, they had averaged just 3.3 runs on their way out of contention.

McDonald could have gotten by with that this time, but his 13th victory was a rare laugher. He evened his record and will go into his final start on Sunday with a chance to finish above .500 for the first time since he went 8-5 in his rookie season of 1990.

The complete game was his seventh since the All-Star break, more than anyone else in the AL over the same period. It was the 20th time in 33 starts that he has given up two runs or fewer, dropping his ERA to 3.12. That ranks him fourth in the league, which isn't bad for a guy who has had trouble just keeping his record at sea level.

"Obviously, I'd like to end up with a winning record," said McDonald, who equaled a personal-high with nine strikeouts, "but I'm not going to treat that game like it's any bigger than any other this year."

McDonald has been pitching the same way throughout the season, but poor run support has kept him at or below .500 for all but the six days between Sept. 11 and 17. The Orioles entered the game averaging just 3.69 runs for every nine innings he has pitched, the fourth lowest offensive output for an AL starting pitcher.

"He didn't need too many [runs] tonight," manager Johnny Oates said. "He threw the ball very well, except for the four walks. He threw some outstanding pitches."

Nevertheless, it had reached the point where McDonald was beginning to wonder what it would take to get a victory. He pitched a three-hitter and lost in Milwaukee on the last road trip. Ten times this year he has given up two runs or fewer and ended up with a loss or no-decision.

He had a little more to work with last night. The Orioles scored two runs in the first inning on the two-run double by Hoiles and added three more after the Yankees got on the scoreboard with a fourth-inning run.

Yankees rookie Sterling Hitchcock struggled through his sixth start of the season, giving up five runs on five hits over three-plus innings to suffer his second loss in three decisions. He was the victim of some faulty fielding in the first, but had no one else to blame for the four straight hits that knocked him out of the game in the fourth.

Designated hitter Lonnie Smith led off that inning with a line drive into the left-field bleachers for his seventh home run of the year and his first as an Oriole. Tim Hulett followed with a single and David Segui bounced a ground-rule double over the center-field fence before Reynolds brought home two more runs with a double to right-center.

It has been a tough three weeks for Smith, who was acquired from Pittsburgh on Sept. 8 to provide some offensive punch for the pennant stretch. When he came to the plate in the fourth, he had just one hit and no RBI in 16 Orioles at-bats.

McDonald was in trouble only once. The Yankees loaded the bases with no one out in the fourth inning on two walks and their first hit, but could squeeze only one run out of a very promising opportunity.

Danny Tartabull came up in a perfect situation to drive in the two runs necessary to get him to 100 RBI, but McDonald struck him out. Matt Nokes brought the run home with a sacrifice fly before Jim Leyritz grounded into a force play.

"The thing about Ben this year is, he hasn't shown any emotion one way or the other," Oates said. "He hasn't let the negative stuff bother him and he hasn't let himself get carried away with the positive stuff. He was out there with the bases loaded and Danny Tartabull up and his body language told me, 'Don't worry, I can handle this.' "

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