ARLINGTON, Tex. -- There was a tornado watch in effect last night in the vicinity of Arlington Stadium, but it apparently will take more than the threat of a natural disaster to keep the Orioles from beating up regularly on the Texas Rangers.
For whatever reason, this is one opponent the Orioles seem to dominate in good times and bad. They withstood the 90-degree nighttime temperature to parlay three home runs and another strong performance by right-hander Ben McDonald into a 5-1 victory.
The head-to-head numbers are staggering. The Orioles hold a 33-13 advantage over Texas since July 1988, though they have had a winning overall record in one of the past four seasons. They are 15-7 at Arlington Stadium over the same period.
Leo Gomez, Cal Ripken and Mike Devereaux combined to break their team's four- game homerless streak and provide McDonald with enough support to win his fifth straight decision. He worked 6 2/3 innings and gave up one run on five hits to improve to 5-0.
McDonald came into the game on a roll. He was coming off back-to-back complete game victories, which put him in position to become the first Orioles pitcher to complete three games in a row since Scott McGregor did it in 1985. The Rangers wouldn't haveany part of that -- knocking him out of the game with three hits in the bottom of the seventh -- but he still carved out a tiny piece of Orioles history, becoming the first pitcher to get off to a 5-0 start in more than one season.
There was little reason to doubt him in the early innings. He retired the first 10 batters he faced before walking Dickie Thon in the fourth. If first baseman Randy Milligan had not slipped on the soft turf fielding a nubber by Ruben Sierra later in the inning and Devereaux had not allowed a catchable line drive to glance off his glove for a fifth-inning double, McDonald might have taken a no-hitter into the seventh.
"I threw a lot of fastballs where I wanted to tonight," McDonald said. "I didn't have exceptional pop on the fastball, but I could spot it. When you can do that kind of stuff, you're going to have some success."
The Orioles also got a pair of solid performances from the bullpen. Left- hander Mike Flanagan came on to bail McDonald out of a jam in the seventh, and submariner Todd Frohwirth finished with two scoreless innings to get his second save of the season.
The victory was the 10th in the past 13 games for the Orioles, who bounced back after losing two of three to the Chicago White Sox over the weekend to drop a series at home for the first time.
"We played terrible on Sunday and showed character coming back and playing well tonight," said manager Johnny Oates.
McDonald continued to show why the Orioles were fortunate to have the No. 1 pick in the June 1989 draft, though the two injury-marred seasons had left room to doubt whether McDonald would ever fulfill his vast potential. He appears to be fulfilling it now, combining with fellow first-round draft pick Mike Mussina on a 9-0 start.
He overpowered the Rangers for six innings, but tired noticeably in the seventh. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the effort he was putting into his fastball. Whatever the reason, Oates wasn't going to let him give anything away after the Orioles broke through for four runs in the top of the inning against Rangers starter Bobby Witt.
McDonald and Witt had been locked in a scoreless duel for six innings, though the Orioles had baserunners all over the place. Gomezhad two singles and a home run in his first three at-bats. He has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games. Chris Hoiles walked in his first two plate appearances and had reached base nine straight times when he made an out in the sixth inning.
Gomez broke the scoreless tie with his line drive into the left-field seats. His third home run of the season traveled 359 feet and cleared the fence a few feet to the right of the foul pole.
Gomez has been one of McDonald's biggest supporters. He is 9-for-21 (.429) during McDonald's seven starts, with all three of .. his home runs and five RBI.
The Orioles ran Witt out of the game later in the inning. Mark McLemore followed with a sharp single and Brady Anderson walked to bring Devereaux to the plate and Texas manager Bobby Valentine to the mound. He brought on former Oriole Jeff Robinson, but that would just make things worse.
Robinson, who pitched five scoreless innings of middle relief to defeat the Orioles in Baltimore last week, gave up a warning-track shot to Devereaux that accounted for a second run when McLemore tagged up and raced all the way home from second base. Moments later, Ripken sent his fourth home run of the year whistling into the left-field bleachers to give McDonald a four-run lead.
The Orioles had wasted a promising opportunity to get a jump on in the third inning, loading the bases with no one out for the heart of the batting order. But Devereaux popped out and the Rangers turned an apparent two-run single by Cal Ripken into a spectacular double play.
Ripken's sharp one-hopper through the middle glanced off the pitcher's mound and bounded just high enough to allow second baseman Jeff Huson to flag it down. Huson dished a slick behind-the-back relay to Thon, who turned the back end of the double play with ease. Look for that one to come to a
Diamondvision screen near you soon.
Milligan leaves with heat cramp
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles got another scare last night when first baseman Randy Milligan limped off the field favoring his left leg in the eighth inning of their 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers, but the injury turned out to be nothing more than a slight muscle cramp.
"It's just a heat cramp," manager Johnny Oates said. "It was just from being out there all night in that heat."
The temperature was 92 degrees at game time. Milligan said afterward that he first felt the cramp while running to cover first on a ground ball by Brian Downing that inning.
"It's nothing," he said. "I'll be in there tomorrow."
It was the second time that Milligan has been removed from a game this year with an injury. He suffered a concussion in a collision with teammate Bill Ripken three weeks ago at Royals Stadium.