McDonald isn't lock facing Key O's, Smith step up, beat Yanks

August 10, 1994|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

It has been nearly a year since a fan ruined Ben McDonald's day at Yankee Stadium.

A Don Mattingly fly ball, which appeared to be headed for right fielder Mark McLemore's glove, ended up in the hands of a fan. The umpire, ignoring the interference, called it a home run.

McDonald lost the game, 1-0.

Tonight, McDonald will need the umpires on his side. Besides dealing with New York's meddlesome fans, the Orioles right-hander faces baseball's only 17-game winner, Jimmy Key.

Key (17-3, 3.19 ERA) is enjoying the finest season of his career. At one point, the Cy Young Award favorite reeled off 11 straight victories. One of those wins, a 6-1 victory over Mike Mussina, came June 16 at Camden Yards. Key is 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts against the Orioles this season.

Since signing a four-year, $17 million contract with the Yankees two years ago, the former Blue Jays left-hander has pitched well in pinstripes.

Key has befuddled left-handed hitters, who are batting .227 against him. Orioles Brady Anderson (.182, 4-for-22) and Harold Baines (.188, 6-for-32) fall into that group.

In fact, Boston's Scott Cooper is the only left-handed hitter to homer off him this year.

When the bases are loaded, Key is even stingier with the long ball. He has never allowed a grand slam in 2,093 1/3 innings, the longest streak among active pitchers, but not one of Palmeresque proportions.

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer never gave up a grand slam in 3,948 major-league innings pitched (he surrendered one to Johnny Bench in the International League).

McDonald, who is coming off a one-hitter Aug. 5 at Milwaukee, will need another Palmer-like performance to beat Key. He is 3-2 with a 2.74 ERA in his past seven starts and is seeking a career-high 14th victory.

Even though McDonald threw 146 pitches -- the most by an Orioles starter -- his last time out, it didn't bother him.

"It was nothing compared to high school and college," McDonald said last Friday.

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