McDonald's the 1 as pitchers keep filling in blanks

August 06, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Ben McDonald showed just how dominant he can be when everything is going his way.

McDonald gave the Orioles their best-pitched game of the season last night, tossing a one-hit shutout to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-0, at unseasonably chilly County Stadium.

McDonald delivered the Orioles their third shutout in the past five games, coming on the heels of a 138-game shutout drought.

Dave Nilsson singled sharply through the left side of the infield with one out in the fourth inning, the only hit McDonald would allow.

He struck out a season-high nine, walked four, and hit one batter in pitching the 31st one-hitter in Orioles history. McDonald threw pitches, the most by an Orioles pitcher this season.

The biggest of McDonald's nine strikeouts came in the eighth, when he fell behind Turner Ward 3-and-1 and came back to strike him out, stranding Jeff Cirillo at third base.

It was the second one-hitter of McDonald's career. He also did it July 20, 1993, when he defeated Kansas City's David Cone, 7-0.

"That was just about as helpless as the game against Minnesota," Brewers manager Phil Garner said, referring to the no-hitter Scott Erickson pitched against his team in April.

Little did the Brewers know at the time that the second inning -- when McDonald walked a pair of batters -- would be their big inning. Nilsson, who led off the inning with a walk and moved up on McDonald's two-out walk to Matt Mieske, was the only Brewers runner to move into scoring position until the eighth inning.

"His control was unlike I've ever seen him have," Brewers leadoff hitter Jody Reed said. "He's not really known as a control-type pitcher. He's got the great heater and curveball and he gets you out with those pitches. When you think of Ben, you don't think of control. You know, hitting the corners, in and out, mixing it up. He's going to come at you. Tonight he was pinpointing it."

Brewers hitters spent much of the game ducking out of the way of McDonald's sweeping curveball, which had a different bend to it than usual.

"Usually his breaking ball goes straight down," catcher Chris Hoiles said. "Tonight it started out right at them and ended up on the outside corner."

McDonald has one start left, in the finale of the upcoming series at Yankee Stadium, before the possibility of an Aug. 12 strike interrupting, perhaps even ending, the season.

McDonald (13-7, 4.20) matched his career-high victory total, set in 1992 and matched in 1993, and did it without much of a challenge. He has five of the Orioles' 12 complete games and has pitched into the seventh inning in 15 of his 23 starts.

The Orioles supported McDonald with eight hits, including two from Chris Hoiles, who hit a two-run home run in the fourth off Milwaukee starter Ricky Bones (10-8) to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead.

Bones, the Brewers' representative on the All-Star team, went the distance, striking out six. He didn't walk anyone.

McDonald said he thought his pitch count was the highest of his major-league career.

"But it was nothing compared to high school and college," McDonald said. "I didn't even know I had thrown that many pitches. I might have had second thoughts about going out there in the ninth if I had known. It wasn't brought to my attention. I was tired but I felt pretty strong, felt like I only had about 110 pitches."

McDonald had the lead before throwing his first pitch.

Chris Sabo, in the outfield for the first time since July 8, and in the lineup because manager Johnny Oates was playing a hunch, scored two runs in the first three innings.

Batting second, Sabo was hit on the hand by a Bones pitch in the first inning and scored on Cal Ripken's triple to the right-field corner. It was Ripken's team-leading 72nd RBI and third triple.

Two innings later, Sabo's aggressive base running, which has gotten him into trouble at times, benefited him. He hit a grounder that deflected off shortstop Jose Valentin, who made a dive in the hole on the play.

Valentin retrieved the ball and threw wildly to second in an attempt to get Sabo trying to take the extra base. Instead, Sabo advanced to third and scored on Rafael Palmeiro's single over Valentin's head.

Hoiles upped the lead to 4-0 by hitting his first home run since July 22. He drove Bones' full-count pitch over the left-field fence, scoring Leo Gomez, who had reached on a one-out single.

McDonald took Arthur Rhodes' shutout Monday as a good omen.

"Arthur threw our first complete game [April 26] and that started us on a run of complete games," McDonald said. "Arthur came up the other day and pitched our first shutout and that started us on another run. I was laying in bed last night thinking about that and I was thinking I was going to throw a shutout."

McDonald followed his imagination and came through with the shutout, but even that wasn't enough to help the second-place Orioles get any closer to the Yankees, who won again last night to maintain their 10-game lead in the American League East.

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers

Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee

Time: 8:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Arthur Rhodes (2-5, 7.01) vs. Brewers' Bill Wegman (8-4, 4.35)

JTC

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