Every start for Shawn Boskie must seem like his last. Just one more failure, one more early exit, and it could be the end.
If the final curtain is about to drop, Boskie is in no hurry to get off the stage.
Supported by a barrage of early home runs, Boskie gave the Orioles 5 2/3 strong innings in an 8-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays before 47,062 that maintained their division lead.
Knowing that New York had won earlier in the day, the Orioles muscled up on Toronto, hitting four home runs in 3 1/3 innings to chase starter Juan Guzman (3-6) and complete a two-game sweep of the Blue Jays. It was a sweet turnabout for a club that had lost six straight and 10 of 15 before the series, the first four to the Blue Jays.
"The most impressive thing in this game, to me, was Shawn Boskie," manager Davey Johnson said. "To have him on the right track is a real shot in the arm for this club."
Boskie wasn't alone on the comeback trail.
Brady Anderson continued his power revival with his fourth leadoff homer this season, and the 27th of his career. He's homered in both games of this series after a dry spell that dated back to the middle of June.
It was only the beginning.
Catcher Lenny Webster hit a tie-breaking, two-run homer in the second that traveled 440 feet to center field. He also singled in two runs in the sixth off reliever Luis Andujar, and his four RBIs matched his career high, set on May 18, 1994, while playing for Montreal.
On this night, his bat was as hot as the temperature.
"I didn't know it got this hot in Baltimore," said Webster, sweat pouring off his face. "It's smoking right now. I probably sweat out maybe 6, 7 pounds of water weight.
"I've got to don the gear just about every day, but I don't worry about that. I just try to go out and do the best I can. Right now, it's working out for us. We just hope that I can stay healthy enough until [Chris] Hoiles comes back. Every day Davey puts me in the lineup, I'm not going to complain. I'm welcoming this opportunity.".
B. J. Surhoff brought in two more runs in the fourth when he deposited a 1-0 pitch over the scoreboard in right, and Jeffrey Hammonds followed with his 15th homer into the seats in left that gave the Orioles (57-33) a 6-1 lead and ended Guzman's night.
Boskie, making his eighth start, was just getting cranked up.
A free-agent pickup during the winter, Boskie (5-3) hadn't won since June 24 at Milwaukee, and hadn't pitched since the first game of a July 4 doubleheader at Detroit. But his ERA was at a season-low 5.63.
He chipped away at it a little more, bringing it down to 5.40 by limiting the Blue Jays to two runs. He allowed four hits, walked none and struck out a season-high seven before leaving to a standing ovation.
"Something clicked between the time I was throwing before the national anthem and afterward, where all of a sudden I took a little stress off myself and started throwing pretty good," Boskie said. "When I went out there I noticed my ball had some life on it and the hitters will let you know. It seemed like I was throwing the ball by a few of the guys, where they had to honor my fastball so much that I felt like I had a little bit of an edge."
Rick Krivda is waiting at Triple-A Rochester. Trade rumors continue to swirl, though Johnson said before the game that the club is more likely to look internally for any help. And Boskie, the first Orioles starter to win since July 3, refuses to let go of the No. 5 job.
His grasp looked more tenuous after the Tigers rained eight hits on him in four innings in his previous start. He threw 92 pitches and was removed after being hit on the foot by a sharp grounder up the middle from Tony Clark, but also left with the score tied in a game the Orioles won, 4-3.
He was given plenty of time to heal, and he put a hurting on the Blue Jays. And bought himself at least another week as the fifth starter.
"It's the same thing every game I go out there," Boskie said of speculation about his future. "This will buy me another five days where that kind of stuff won't be in the paper, maybe. But I've made a deal with myself that I wasn't going to read the papers and even worry about it.
"The bottom line is if you pitch well, then it kind of settles all that stuff down. And when we win, it settles that stuff down. Tonight I pitched more like what this team expected me to do. I've been telling people the last few days my arm and body have felt better now than I've felt all year."
After breezing through the first inning, striking out two, Boskie surrendered a leadoff homer to Carlos Delgado in the second, a 424-footer to center that tied the score at 1. It was Delgado's second homer of the series and his 19th of the season.