McDonald battered in 9-2 loss

June 23, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

It was only one inning and one game and one loss and one game lost in the standings.

But what an inning it was.

It lasted forever.

It took Ben McDonald's earned-run average and inflated it all the way from 4.01 to 4.69.

And it was all the Milwaukee Brewers needed to leave town on the winning side of a three-game series with a 9-2 victory over the Orioles last night in front of 47,186 spectators at Camden Yards, the 30th consecutive sellout.

The Brewers scored eight of those runs in the nine-hit second inning and seven of them were charged to McDonald.

It was supposed to be a pitchers' duel between McDonald and Milwaukee's Cal Eldred (8-7), but McDonald (10-5) forgot to bring his gun.

Big Ben lasted only 1 2/3 innings, time enough to surrender eight earned runs on seven hits, two of them home runs.

"About five minutes into my warm-up, I knew there wasn't a whole lot there," McDonald said. "When you run into trouble that fast, you can't find a rhythm and it kind of snowballs on you. You just hope they hit a line drive right at somebody and they didn't."

Since starting the year with seven wins in seven starts, McDonald has gone 4-4 with a 6.89 ERA.

Meanwhile, Eldred pitched a complete-game three-hitter. Chris Hoiles' 11th home run, with the bases empty in the second, and Leo Gomez's sacrifice fly in the fourth accounted for the Orioles' scoring.

It was the second consecutive three-hitter for Eldred, whose team supported him with three times as many hits in one inning as he allowed the Orioles all night.

After allowing three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning taking over for McDonald in the second, Mark Williamson threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits, and striking out three.

Williamson's 6 1/3 innings marked the longest relief outing of Williamson's career. It came three days after Williamson pitched 5 1/3 innings.

When long relievers appear twice in four days, something is amiss. In this case, the something is the Orioles' starting rotation.

For the third time in four days, the Orioles' starter did not make it out of the fifth inning. The Orioles are idle today before starting a seven-game trip that takes them to Toronto and Cleveland, and for that the relievers are grateful.

Complicating the situation, left-hander Sid Fernandez, suffering from a possible rib-cage muscle strain, is doubtful for tomorrow night's game in Toronto.

Last night's loss, the third in four games for the Orioles, coupled with the New York Yankees' 9-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, left the second-place Orioles four games behind the Yankees in the American League East.

It also concluded a 4-6 homestand that started with the Orioles trailing the Yankees by one game. The Orioles are a .500 team at home.

But they sure didn't look like one in the second inning.

The Brewers sent 13 batters to the plate in the inning, had nine hits and drew two walks.

In the second inning alone, designated hitter Dave Nilsson singled, doubled, drove in two runs and scored two runs. Matt Mieske doubled, singled, drove in a run and scored one. Alex Diaz homered and singled.

"I don't recall having two at-bats in the same inning," Nilsson said. "Two runs, two hits, two RBIs, that's pretty funny."

The inning started out bad and kept getting worse for McDonald. Single, single, double, home run. Four batters into the inning, McDonald had allowed four runs and was behind 5-0.

Strikeout, walk, single, strikeout, single, see ya.

Enter Williamson, whose thankless job is long relief. In this job a pitcher can sit for a week, sometimes two, and never face a hitter. Then he can make what amounts to two starts in four days.

Long relievers are asked to gobble innings, no matter how empty their tanks.

Taking the mound on two days' rest after pitching 5 1/3 innings Sunday, Williamson carried a gasoline can to the blaze, before restoring calm in remarkable fashion considering his recent workload.

Williamson faced four hitters in the second and did not retire one.

Center fielder Brady Anderson mercy-killed the inning by throwing out Brian Harper at the plate. Harper was attempting to score on Diaz's single to center.

Williamson then settled into a groove, pitching six consecutive scoreless innings. In the event Fernandez can't start tomorrow night, Mike Oquist will, which makes Williamson's effort even more important. Had Oquist been used last night, the Orioles would have had to dip into the minor leagues for a starting pitcher.

This didn't figure to be a night Williamson would be needed.

McDonald was coming off two consecutive wins in which he allowed three runs in eight innings to the Boston Red Sox and two runs in a complete game against the Twins.

In the middle of his start against the Red Sox, McDonald waited through a rain delay that lasted two hours and one minute.

"I think that game in Boston really took a lot out of me," McDonald said. "Then to come back and go the next night was tough. I didn't have much arm strength left for tonight."

Hitting his fourth home run, over the scoreboard in right field, Milwaukee third baseman B. J. Surhoff put McDonald behind with two outs in the first. The 0-2 pitch was a forkball that didn't drop until it cleared the fence.

Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston's selection job for the All-Star Game became a little easier last night. McDonald would have to pitch two consecutive shutouts to bring his ERA under 4.00.

"I guess those things happen to the best of them," Oates said of McDonald's rough night. "It makes for a long night. You get down nine runs in the second inning and it makes it hard for everybody."

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