ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Moose isn't really loose. Randy Milligan is confident. He is driving the ball and delivering the big hits again. But he definitely is not loose.
"I'm a nervous wreck," he said.
Don't misunderstand. He wanted nothing more than for the Orioles to be in a pennant race at this point in the season, but he doesn't think his happy-go-lucky personality fits the occasion. It's supposed to be fun, but that is a matter of semantics as far as Milligan is concerned.
"It's tense more than it's fun," he said. "I don't care what anybody says. It would be fun if we were up 10 games."
OK, so let's just say it's a lot more fun than it was a couple of weeks ago, when Milligan was in the latter stages of a two-month batting slump and the Orioles were in danger of slipping out of the race. He had five extra-base hits in 54 games. He was part of a large gap that had formed in the Orioles lineup -- a gap that separated the surprisingly productive top of the lineup from the surprisingly productive eighth and ninth spots.
Milligan, shortstop Cal Ripken and designated hitter Glenn Davis are supposed to be the heart of the order, but they have been missing in action for much of the season. Now, Milligan seems to have found his way back into the offensive flow.
He entered last night's game on a six-game roll that has helped the Orioles assure themselves a winning road trip even before they opened the three-game series against the California Angels that began last night at Anaheim Stadium.
In those first six games, he had 10 hits in 25 at-bats (.400), with three home runs, three doubles, seven runs scored and seven RBI. The team scored 21 runs and Milligan was directly involved in 11 of them.
Last night, he had an RBI single in the four-run fifth.
The fog has lifted. With the help of batting coach Greg Biagini, Milligan is in a position to help carry the club down the stretch. The pressure has not lifted, but it has changed shape.
"It never goes completely away," said Milligan, whose easy-going personality belies the presence of any pressure at all. "The pressure always is going to be there, because you have such high standards for yourself. When you're not meeting them, it gets frustrating. When you're doing well, you just get a different kind of feeling. I guess you'd call it confidence."
Biagini says that it is a combination of things. Confidence is one ++ of them, but there were some mechanical adjustments that have contributed to Milligan's resurgence at the plate. They are subtle things, but important nonetheless.
,.5l "There were some little mechanical things that needed adjusting," Biagini said. "He definitely came to a point where he had to make a change to do the things he's capable of doing. Once you get on a roll, it just builds from there."
Hitting isn't a perfect science. One player's perfect mechanics are another player's lengthy batting slump. Biagini takes it one step further. He contends that one player's good mechanics one year might not be the right mechanics the next. That's why Milligan went from being very productive in the second half of the 1991 season to being very unproductive at midseason.
"I don't think a guy hits the same way year in and year out," Biagini said. "One year, you can feel great a certain way and the next year it might not feel comfortable.
"To me, it might have been that he was trying to do what he did in the past and it wasn't working."