DETROIT -- The way things have been going, Ben McDonal probably thought it would take a no-hitter to get him his first victory in more than six weeks.
He gave it a shot, but it wasn't necessary. The Orioles finally gave him a shot in the arm with a big offensive performance and cruised to a 7-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday in the opener of a two-game set at Tiger Stadium.
McDonald carried his no-hit bid into the sixth inning and took a one-hit shutout into the eighth before the Tigers collected three straight singles to get on the scoreboard. But it was going to take a lot more than that to keep McDonald from recording his first victory since Aug. 12 and evening his record at 13-13.
The Orioles recently tied a dubious club record with a string of 21 games in which they scored no more than four runs, but they have rebounded with a couple of impressive nights at the plate. They broke out of the slump with a seven-run performance against the Boston Red Sox in the final game of the year at Camden Yards, then came back Tuesday night to score seven runs off veteran left-hander Frank Tanana in no time flat.
Tanana, who has more career wins (22) and losses (19) against the Orioles than any other active pitcher, lasted just four-plus innings and gave up 11 hits and two walks to drop his record to 13-11. The seven runs were the most given up by an opposing pitcher since Texas Rangers starter Jose Guzman surrendered seven in 4 2/3 innings on July 18.
McDonald did not give up a hit until Tigers first baseman Dave Bergman poked an opposite-field single to left with one out in hTC the sixth inning. He gave up one run on four hits over eight innings, finally giving way to reliever Mark Williamson to open the ninth after the Tigers broke up the shutout.
The no-hit suspense was just beginning to build when Bergman finally slapped the ball through the infield. McDonald kicked the dirt in apparent disappointment after the ball squirted into left, but he said afterward that he never considered a no-hitter to be a serious possibility.
"To tell you the truth, my stuff wasn't that good," he said. "I was surprised they went so long without a hit. I felt like they missed some pitches in the early innings and I threw the ball better later on in the game."
McDonald has pitched 219 innings this year. He has remained injury-free and has not missed a start. He will make one more start on the final day of the regular season, but he already has proved to be far more durable than he appeared in 1990 and '91.
"I think the biggest thing is being handled correctly this year," McDonald said. "Last year, I threw too many pitches too early. I threw 97 pitches my second time out in spring training. That's too many."
He threw 104 last night to end a string of eight winless starts. Though Williamson came on to give up a leadoff homer to Cecil Fielder in the ninth, the outcome was never in doubt after a makeshift Orioles lineup scored four times in the fifth to break open the game.
The Orioles didn't take the field at full strength. First baseman Randy Milligan and third baseman Leo Gomez were injured in Monday night's home finale and catcher Chris Hoiles has been shelved for the season, forcing manager Johnny Oates to use a late September lineup in spite of himself.
Fill-in third baseman Tim Hulett opened an early-inning assault on Tanana with his second-inning shot into the right-field bleachers -- only the second home run he has hit this year. He would go on to drive two other balls to the outer reaches of the ballpark, but his other hit was a soft liner over the first baseman.
Rookie outfielder Luis Mercedes gave the club a two-run lead with an RBI single later in the second inning and brought home another run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth before the Orioles broke open the game with four runs in the fifth.
Tanana did not retire a batter in that inning. He walked Cal Ripken leading off and gave up three consecutive singles before turning the game over to right-hander Eric King. Glenn Davis moved up Ripken with a single and Hulett brought him home with a looping single to right.
Segui followed with a single to left that finally brought Tigers manager Sparky Anderson out of the dugout. King came on to give up an RBI single to fill-in catcher Jeff Tackett and a sacrifice fly to Brady Anderson -- and the rout was on.