Orioles, McDonald sweep within game as Yankees arrive

ROUNDING FIRST

June 13, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Strange as it sounds, the Orioles could be in first place by tonight.

Six games off the pace 12 days ago, they can move into a tie for first with a victory over the New York Yankees tonight in the opener of a four-game series at Camden Yards against the American League East leaders.

The Orioles brought themselves to the brink of first by completing a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox with a rain-interrupted, 8-4 victory yesterday at Fenway Park, where the crowd count was 32,280 and the rain was heavy.

Ben McDonald made two starts in one, throwing his last pitch four hours and 53 minutes after the game's first pitch. He allowed three runs on six hits and one walk in eight innings. He struck out five, lasted one batter into the ninth, and threw only 99 pitches.

McDonald didn't let a rain delay of two hours and one minute deny him of a win in a game he led 6-1 when it was interrupted in the top of the fourth. It wasn't much of an issue in McDonald's mind, but Orioles manager Johnny Oates said it was in his.

"That was probably as tough a decision as I've had to make in three years," Oates said. "You don't want to risk losing him the whole season just to win one ballgame. But he had only thrown 40 pitches and Bos [pitching coach Dick Bosman] said the first time he picked up a ball his arm was real fluid and he stretched it out no problem."

Just in case Oates was in an overly cautious mood, McDonald had a plan. "I was thinking about tying him up so he couldn't come out and take me out," McDonald said.

Just in case McDonald had trouble getting loose, Oates had Mark Williamson waiting to take over.

"I knew Ben wasn't coming out," Williamson said. "A 6-1 lead in the fourth? Ben was like a thirsty camel with water out in front of it. He was going to keep going after it until he got it."

Pitching with a strained groin muscle that caused him to miss one start, McDonald said he felt the injury more after the delay than before it and more while pitching out of the stretch than the windup.

"I was never close to coming out of the game because of it or anything," McDonald said.

McDonald pitched well in the rain, under the fleeting sun, and underneath cloudy skies, working equally well on both sides of the delay.

McDonald rode an exercise bike, swung a fungo bat, and wore heat packs on his arm during the delay.

"It was a long game," McDonald said. "It wasn't easy having to get up for three innings, sit down for two hours, and get up again."

A five-run lead made it a little easier.

"Those kinds of runs don't come along too often," McDonald said.

They came from everywhere yesterday.

The Orioles supported McDonald with 14 hits, including home runs from Leo Gomez, Rafael Palmeiro (3-for-4) and Cal Ripken (a double, three RBIs).

And none of them was the offensive player of the game. Brady Anderson went 4-for-4, tripled, stole two bases, scored two runs and drove in two more.

Play was delayed with the Orioles leading 6-1 in the top of the fourth after Palmeiro's bases-empty home run to right field off left-handed reliever Joe Hesketh, Palmeiro's third hit of the day.

Hesketh slipped on the mound throwing a pitch to Ripken, which triggered the interruption in play. Red Sox manager Butch Hobson came out of the dugout to complain about the conditions and the grounds crew was summoned to put fresh dirt on the mound and in the batter's box.

While they were patching things up and the rain continued to pelt the diamond, crew chief Dave Phillips called the delay.

While Palmeiro prayed for sunshine, Boston right-hander Nate Minchey was dancing for rain.

"I knew it was going to stop," Oates said. "It always has."

It did, which meant Minchey's awful day was not washed out of the record books.

Showing he belongs on the Red Sox pitching staff, a veritable batting practice pitching machine of late, Minchey didn't make it out of the third inning. He allowed 10 hits and five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

The Orioles hit for the cycle against Minchey, who was making his first major-league start of the season. He went 6-2 with a 2.93 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket to earn the promotion and was 1-2 with a 3.55 ERA in five September starts for the Red Sox last season.

He was fortunate to get out of the first inning having allowed only one run on the Orioles' three hits.

Anderson led off by beating out a bunt in front of the mound and was erased when Chris Sabo bounced into a force play. Sabo was thrown out trying to take third on Palmeiro's line single to right.

With one out, it was the right time to try to take the extra base and it took a perfect throw from right fielder Wes Chamberlain and a close call to get Sabo.

Ripken followed with a double to the left-field corner that scored Palmeiro ahead of Mike Greenwell's off-line throw.

Minchey was fortunate to escape the second inning trailing 3-0.

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