NEW YORK -- This should be another inspiring story of odds defeated and obstacles overcome, but the Orioles have not been very good to their two comeback pitchers this year.
Journeyman left-hander Jamie Moyer gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings in his second Orioles start last night, but New York Yankees right-hander Bob Wickman held the Orioles to just three hits over eight innings on the way to a 1-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.
Sound familiar? Fernando Valenzuela knows the trouble Moyer has seen. Valenzuela has pitched very well in four of his past five starts, but has just one victory to show for it.
So which is it? Good pitching or bad hitting? Nobody can say for sure, but the Orioles have scored a total of one run in Moyer's two starts. If you add that to the 17 they have scored in Valenzuela's seven starts, you get a pretty good idea of what's going on.
"It's not just the two of them," manager Johnny Oates said. "Ben McDonald has pitched a couple of ballgames where a few runs would have made things OK, and how many times has Rick Sutcliffe gone into the late innings for us without giving up any runs?"
Of course, Wickman deserved some of the credit last night, or maybe even most of it. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and needed only a fifth-inning home run by No. 9 hitter Pat Kelly and an inning of relief from stopper Steve Farr to improve his record to 5-1.
The victory also improved his career record to 11-1, so he obviously is no slouch. But the Orioles have made so many pitchers look good during the past few weeks that it's difficult to sort out who should get credit and who should get blame.
Oates wasn't pointing a finger at anyone. Somehow, he managed to remain upbeat and find a silver lining around another seemingly lackluster offensive performance.
"I think we had some good swings tonight," he said. "I really thought we were going to score. Wickman pitched well, but I thought we were going to get him. I saw some life in our bats tonight. Even though we only had three hits, I feel a whole lot
better about what's happening with this club than I did a week ago."
No doubt, the Orioles were hoping Monday night's eight-run, 15-hit performance represented a turning point for the club's slumping offense. That, and the impending return of injured Mike Devereaux and Harold Baines, could only improve the outlook for a grueling coast-to-coast road trip.
It sounded pretty good in theory, but Wickman put the Orioles right back in their place among the lowest-scoring American League teams.
No one should have been surprised. Wickman came into the game with a 10-1 record in 15 career starts, dating back to his arrival late last season. He is one of three pitchers acquired in the trade that sent second baseman Steve Sax to the Chicago White Sox in 1992 -- a trade that has worked out extremely well for the Yankees.
Moyer has to be wondering what he has to do to re-establish himself at the major-league level. He went 6-0 for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings to earn a promotion when the Orioles placed left-hander Arthur Rhodes on the disabled list with a knee injury. Moyer pitched well enough to win in his first Orioles start last week, giving up two runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians, but came up on the wrong end of a 3-1 decision.
He has played for nine teams since 1988, but he appears to have found himself in the Orioles organization. He was overpowering in Triple-A (1.67 ERA) and has been very effective in his first two major-league starts. In a total of 10 starts at both levels, he has given up more than two earned runs only once and one run or fewer six times.
"I think a lot of it is confidence," Moyer said. "I have confidence in all of my pitches. Obviously, I'm giving up more hits here, but if I continue to give up one or two runs, who cares?"
This time, he carried a shutout into the fifth inning before Kelly hit the towering home run into the Orioles bullpen to give the Yankees the only run they would need.
Moyer worked with runners on in every inning up to that point, but his ability to throw the ball over the plate helped him hold the Yankees in check. He did not walk a batter in his first start last week and he stretched his string of innings without a base on balls to 14 last night.
Kelly's home run broke a string of 10 1/3 scoreless innings by Moyer, dating back to the Indians' two-run first inning at Camden Yards.
"That wasn't a very good pitch, but I was down 2-0 and I had to get back into the count," Moyer said. "He drove it out of the park. He's the ninth hitter, but at this level one through nine can drive the ball out. I'm not in the minors anymore."
The Orioles mounted a threat after third baseman Leo Gomez broke up the no-hitter in the seventh. Gomez was thrown out stealing, but Wickman hit Chris Hoiles with a pitch and gave up a single to rookie Paul Carey. It was Carey's first major-league hit and it pushed an Orioles base runner as far as second base for only the second time in the game, but David Segui grounded out to end the inning.
"It's just a matter of getting the bats going," Moyer said. "We're trying to put the ball in play and we're struggling. It's just a matter of working through it and staying positive.
"I look back at spring training and I remember a good hitting ballclub. I know that right now it seems like we can't put it together, but good things have got to start happening."