ANAHEIM, Calif. -- They're still in first place and still in possession of a masterful starting rotation. But right now the Orioles are an offense without wheels.
The Anaheim Angels made the point last night in a 3-2 win before 15,966 at Anaheim Stadium. Held to a season-low three hits by five pitchers, the Orioles had enough opportunities to leave the game muttering.
Proud of their enhanced ability to manufacture runs, the Orioles now find themselves held hostage in their trainer's room. There is no call to alarm. Just a desire to run without pain.
Beaten for the second time in 11 days by Angels rookie Jason Dickson (6-1), the series sweep was the first suffered by the Orioles since they dumped three against the Minnesota Twins last July 22-24. It also marks the first time in 15 series this season they haven't at least forged a split.
Given six serviceable innings by starter Scott Kamieniecki (2-2), who crammed more excitement than a tour of Space Mountain into his 111 pitches, the Orioles hung around but were repeatedly frustrated by Anaheim's outstanding defense, their own big-swinging tendencies and a debatable sixth-inning call that denied the tying run.
"The guy threw a great game. That's going to happen sometimes. It's not like we haven't been hitting," said second baseman Roberto Alomar.
The Orioles had opportunities to run. They just didn't have the legs. In four games on this road trip they've yet to steal a base. Alomar is still bothered by a tender left ankle. He has one double and two stolen bases in 29 games. A catalyst three weeks ago, Eric Davis has been reduced to a designated hitter hobbling the bases because of a strained right hamstring.
"It's been tough; there's no doubt about it," Davis said. "Hopefully, I'll get better these next three or four days and be able to get back in the outfield. But this affects my game. It affects the way teams have to play me. I've never had a first baseman play behind me before, but they can afford to do that because they know I can't run. It's not the way I like to play but I don't have much choice now."
Said manager Davey Johnson: "Our guys are holding it together while everybody is getting healthy. We haven't been healthy all year. But when you win all those series, that's pretty good. You've got to give that kid [Dickson] credit. He can pitch."
Alomar reached first base in a base-stealing situation but never budged during a tell-all sixth. A disadvantageous count to B. J. Surhoff didn't help. However, he became the easy front end of a 3-6-3 double play that wiped out the Orioles' best chance at rebounding.
While Dickson breezed, Kamieniecki again encountered a rough first inning.
The Angels pounded away for six hits the first two innings as Kamieniecki found himself forever pitching from the stretch. With one out in the first, center fielder Jim Edmonds began a brilliant all-around game with a single. Jack Howell followed with a double into the right-center-field gap, scoring Edmonds. Kamieniecki threatened to regain control in the inning when he got a groundout from Jim Leyritz, but could not finish against Tim Salmon, who pushed across Howell with a single.
The beating continued in the second inning as Luis Alicea led off with a double and Gary DiSarcina singled him to third. Darin Erstad made the score 3-0 with a long sacrifice fly to right field.
"It seemed like those first two innings took two hours," said Johnson.
The Angels kept after Kamieniecki. Howell walked to lead off the third and slid around Alomar's tag to steal second. However, he advanced no farther.
Alicea walked in the fourth and was doubled to third by DiSarcina with one out. In his most impressive stand of the game, Kamieniecki got Erstad to pop to shortstop then struck out Edmonds.
If Kamieniecki was running true to form against the Angels, then Dickson was doing the same against the Orioles. One of only five starters to beat the Orioles through 38 games, Dickson had held them to two runs in 6 1/3 innings in a faceoff against Kamieniecki on May 5. Last night, he held the Orioles hitless through three innings during which he allowed two base runners.
Unable to manufacture anything with most of their speed players limited by nagging injuries, the Orioles finally broke through against Dickson in the fourth inning when slumping Rafael Palmeiro ended a power slide. With his first homer in 21 games, a monstrous shot that curled halfway up the abandoned span of right-field bleachers, Palmeiro cut the lead to 3-1. The long-ball drought was Palmeiro's longest as an Oriole and longest since he went from April 10 to May 3 without a homer as a Texas Ranger in 1993.