The Orioles have gotten very comfortable in their new digs, and they dug in again last night with a 6-2 victory in the first half of a two-game series.
If you're scoring at home, that's 11 victories in 13 games at Oriole Park, where the Orioles own the second best home record in the majors (the Pirates at 10-1 are the best). But they have played well almost everywhere the past three weeks, as evidenced by a 15-4 run that dates back to April 17.
Round up the usual suspects.
Brady Anderson had three hits, including his fourth home run of the year. Chris Hoiles added three hits and missed a mammoth homer by a couple of feet. Leo Gomez hit his second home run. Sam Horn had a couple of RBI singles. And Ben McDonald cruised to another seemingly easy victory -- his fourth without a defeat.
McDonald carried a shutout into the eighth inning, scattered six hits and went the distance for the third time in six 1992 starts. But if he made it look easy, appearances can be deceiving.
"I probably had the worst control I had all year," McDonald said. "If Chris [Hoiles] set up outside, I threw it inside. If he set up inside, I threw it outside. But I probably had the best fastball I've had all year. I couldn't spot it, so I was throwing it hard and hoping to get it by them. Fortunately, I got by on my God-given ability."
It was the seventh complete game of the year for the rebuilt Orioles rotation, which needs just one more to match the club's total for all of 1991.
McDonald has given up two runs or fewer in each of his past three starts, but he has had plenty of room for error. Last night's offensive performance was modest compared with his previous two games, in which the club scored a total of 24 runs.
"It's been great," he said. "It's not going to be that way all year long. I'm going to have to win some 3-2 and 2-1 ballgames, but I'll enjoy it while it's here."
Manager Johnny Oates is enjoying McDonald's fast start, and he can't help but wonder if there is even more to come. McDonald is 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA -- who could ask for more? -- but he has only put together a couple of exceptional performances.
"I don't think he's at his best yet," Oates said. "I see him having so much talent. He's getting better and better every time out. I think of the way he pitched in his opening start [a two-hitter against Cleveland] and I can see a time when he'll pitch like that four of every five times he goes out there."
He won't have to if the Orioles continue to produce runs the way they did against Twins starter Kevin Tapani, who dominated them in two 1991 starts but has had trouble putting solid $H performances back-to-back this year.
Tapani had runners on base in each of his four innings of work, thanks largely to Anderson, who greeted him with a base hit in the first and hit safely in three of the first four innings.
Each of the three hits turned into runs. Anderson was forced out at second on a ground ball by Mark McLemore in the first, but McLemore stole second and scored on a two-out single by Horn. Anderson singled to put runners at first and third in the third, and the Orioles scored twice -- on another RBI single by Horn and a run-scoring ground out by Mike Devereaux. Then came the fourth-inning home run that gave McDonald a 5-0 lead.
Anderson's numbers tell an interesting story. One month into the season, he already has matched his career high for home runs with four and set a career high with five triples. He has 17 extra-base hits, one short of his career high, and 24 RBI, three short of his career high. He joined California Angels outfielder Junior Felix at the top of the American League RBI rankings.
His name appears on the league leader sheet in eight of the 16 dTC offensive categories, including RBI, total bases (62), doubles (eight), triples (five), stolen bases (10), on-base percentage (.419), slugging percentage (.596) and extra-base hits (17).
"He's had a lot of quality at-bats this year," Oates said. "He and Hoiles are both seeing the ball very well. They are both attacking the ball and taking good swings."
Horn picked a good time to get back in the swing of things. First baseman Glenn Davis is off the disabled list and is scheduled to be the designated hitter in today's series finale against the Twins. His return figures to cut into somebody's playing time, and Oates said yesterday that it probably wouldn't be Randy Milligan's.
"Glenn, when he's ready, he'll be somewhere," Oates said before the game. "He may not be there every day, but he'll get a majority of the playing time. Randy will play. David [Segui] will play. They've earned the opportunity to play more."
It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to figure out that the only designated hitter or first baseman of any significance who wasn't mentioned in the preceding quote is Horn, who was struggling at the plate before Tuesday's game against Texas.
Horn broke out of a 1-for-20 slump with two hits Tuesday, including his first triple in 879 major-league at-bats. He came back yesterday with another big performance, but he'll have to keep producing to keep a substantial share of the DH role.
Horn didn't have to wait long to find that out last night. When Twins manager Tom Kelly turned the ball over to left-handed reliever Mark Guthrie in the fifth, Horn took his 2-for-2 performance to the bench and Davis took his first official swings since Opening Day.
Oates had said that he wanted Davis to get his feet wet in a non-critical situation. The Orioles were leading by five runs at the time, which is about as non-critical as you're going to get against the defending world champions. Davis grounded sharply to third in his first at-bat.
The Orioles padded that lead in the sixth when Gomez got around on Guthrie and drove a line drive off the left -field foul pole for his second homer of the year and second hit of the game.
Leading home run parks (through last night's Orioles game; others through Tuesday's games:)
.. .. .. .. .. .. G.. .. HR.. .. Avg.
Baltimore.. .. ..13.. .. 35.. .. .2.7
Detroit.. .. .. .15.. .. 35.. .. .2.3
Oakland.. .. .. .11.. .. 25.. .. .2.3
San Diego.. .. ..17.. .. 36.. .. .2.1