Harold Baines had to admit that the Toronto Blue Jays did a nice job of keeping him under wraps in the first two games of their series this week with the Orioles.
Toronto starters Todd Stottlemyre and Pat Hentgen held Baines to just two hits in eight at-bats in Monday and Tuesday's games.
Not so coincidentally, the Orioles lost both those contests, but Baines didn't panic, neither for himself nor for the team. It's not his style. It's not what he does.
"I just try to see the ball and hit it," said Baines. They [Toronto pitchers] did the same things and they got me out very well. I looked for the ball from the middle of the plate in. I just made the adjustments."
The result for Baines was a 3-for-4 night with three RBI to pace the Orioles to a 6-0 win over the Blue Jays, helping them salvage the final game in the three-game set.
From his position in the cleanup spot, Baines is expected to drive in runs, and he has done that for most of the year, hitting .375 with runners on base.
Although Harold Reynolds and Mark McLemore reached base with frequency in the Toronto series, Baines was unable to bring them in, thanks in large measure to Blue Jays pitching.
But the designated hitter whose .302 average is second on the club among regulars behind David Segui's .331, remained unflappable.
Baines didn't worry, figuring his time would come, particularly off a
pitcher like Toronto starter Dave Stewart, whom he's had success against, with a career batting average of .352.
"I'm the kind of guy who takes it one day at a time," said Baines. "If I go 0-for-4 and we win, I'm happy with that."
For the better part of a month, Baines and his teammates have played to preseason expectations, ripping off wins in 19 of 25 games and moving to within four games of the lead in the American League East.
And after winning five of six games against Detroit and New York -- two of the three teams they were trying to catch in the division -- the Orioles figured to have some momentum going into the Toronto series.
But the world champions stole that momentum by taking the first two games of the series, and putting the Orioles back on their heels for a bit.
Tuesday's 2-1 loss had a particular sting attached since Ben McDonald carried a two-hit shutout into the ninth, only to see it collapse under the weight of timely Toronto hitting and missed Oriole opportunities.
"I had a rough night [Tuesday]," said manager Johnny Oates. "These guys picked me up."
"Ben pitched a great game," said catcher Chris Hoiles. "We should have had that one. We had a lot of chances and we just blew them. [Last night] we just got the key hits from Harold when we needed them and we took off from there.
"We needed a win tonight," said Reynolds, who was 2-for-5 with a run scored. "We needed it just to keep a good focus. Beating them [the Blue Jays] with them being the leader was really important."
Even with a 6-3 homestand, the Orioles leave for Chicago and Kansas City having gained just one game on first place. But that doesn't faze Baines. Precious little does.
"There's no pressure," said Baines. "They [Blue Jays] know we can play and we know they can play. The bottom line is who wins the most games in the American League East. We have a chance for that."