Ben McDonald came close again last night. His teammates fared better.
Another two-run homer by Harold Baines and an eighth-inning sacrifice fly by David Segui were enough to give the Orioles a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards. It was their fifth in a row, and sixth in the past seven.
McDonald continued the recent trend of excellent Orioles pitching, allowing one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. However, Todd Frohwirth (3-4), who was unable to protect a 2-1 lead after escaping a jam in the seventh, picked up the victory and Gregg Olson finished for his 14th save and third in the past three games.
"Sooner or later, it will come," said McDonald, who didn't allow a hit through the first five innings.
"He threw the ball very well for five innings, lost quite a bit in the sixth and lost it all in the seventh," manager Johnny Oates said of McDonald. "I tried to give him a chance to work out of a jam. He needs to learn to do that."
The Orioles haven't been able to win many games with three runs, and last night they needed a couple of late breaks to push across the game-winner.
Goose Gossage set up his own downfall by walking Mike Devereaux, the first batter he faced in the eighth. Then the Orioles got a second break when Gossage hesitated for a moment after he made a diving catch of Leo Gomez's sacrifice bunt, allowing Devereaux to get back to first.
"I don't know why I was waiting for the out call," said Gossage, who nearly trapped the ball. "but I did. It should have been automatic, I should have thrown to first."
With Chris Hoiles at bat, Devereaux got the winning run into scoring position with his second stolen base of the year. Hoiles followed with a soft liner to right on which Kevin Seitzer, playing first base, made a good decoy. Devereaux had to hesitate and had no chance to score -- and when Ruben Sierra's throw went to home plate, Hoiles never broke stride and headed for second.
The huge gamble paid off when umpire Mark Johnson ruled that Hoiles barely beat a throw from catcher Terry Steinbach. Segui, who hadn't hit the ball out of the infield in his past 12 at-bats, then followed with his sacrifice fly to left field and Devereaux scored easily.
"Hoiles got a broken-bat hit and took the extra base, which was real risky," said A's manager Tony La Russa. "I don't think he would ever try that again. But he got in, the umpire was right on the play, and he got away with it."
McDonald was almost perfect through five innings, allowing only a first-inning walk to Rickey Henderson. Mixing a sharp breaking pitch with a good fastball, the big right-hander retired 13 straight hitters after the walk to Henderson before Craig Paquette grounded a single to left to open the sixth inning.
By then, the Orioles were up 2-0, thanks to Baines' second homer in two days.
"I said in New York that the cavalry is back," Oates said, referring to the return of Baines and Devereaux from the disabled list. "It makes a difference writing down the lineup. The bottom line is we're getting clutch hits from Harold and Devo."
In his past five games, Baines has gone 8-for-17, with six RBI. He had his third three-hit game of the year last night, but was typically low key.
"I'm here to drive in runs," he said. "I just want to be consistent. I'm a line-drive hitter and line drives go out [of the park] as well as fly balls. But I'm not trying to hit home runs."
Other than McDonald's lost no-hit bid, the middle innings were marked by two hit batters, rekindling memories of the brawl the day before. The Orioles' Harold Reynolds was hit in the right knee by a Bobby Witt pitch in the fifth inning, and McDonald hit Brent Gates on the right forearm in the sixth.
There was little reason to suspect intent in either case -- Reynolds was leading off the inning with the A's trailing 2-0, and Gates reaching base enabled Henderson, who entered the game with a .500 average against McDonald, to come to the plate representing the lead run.
Nevertheless, plate umpire Jim McKean decided to take no chances. After Gates was hit, McKean quickly gave both benches a warning, a signal that any further incident could result in an ejection, and the game proceeded without complications.
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Athletics starter: Curt Young (0-0, 0.00)
Orioles starter: Fernando Valenzuela (2-5, 4.31)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)
Tickets: About 1,500 remain, not including 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.