CHICAGO -- Orioles manager Johnny Oates said the alternate route he took here last night was not the same one he rejected 48 hours earlier.
But the circumstances, if not the results, were certainly familiar.
For the second time in three nights, the Orioles took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning. This time the starting pitcher stayed in the dugout.
After Jamie Moyer had toyed with the Chicago White Sox foeight innings, Oates turned to Gregg Olson for the last three outs. The ace reliever gave up the hardest hit ball of the night -- but it resulted in the final out of the game as the Orioles made their 1-0 lead stand up to record their second straight shutout victory.
Despite the similarity, Oates said there was no comparisobetween this game and the one the Orioles lost to Toronto Tuesday night, when Ben McDonald took a two-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the ninth and ended up a 2-1 loser. In that game, McDonald faced two hitters in the ninth and Olson didn't appear until after the Blue Jays had taken the lead.
"To me, the situation wasn't the same -- it wasn't even close,said Oates. "The whole thing was the three guys coming up [Frank Thomas, George Bell and Ellis Burks].
"Combined they were 4-for-27 against Olson, and you can't maka mistake to any of them. I think that was a no-brainer."
As spectacular as Moyer was, and he was as good as he can be, he needed every ounce of cunning in his 6-foot, 170-pound frame to out-duel Jack McDowell. The White Sox ace came into the game on a roll, and left with his toughest loss of the year, despite retiring the last 20 batters he faced.
"I don't want to take anything away from Jamie Moyer, but I thintonight we saw one of the best pitchers in baseball pitch as well as I've ever seen him pitch," White Sox manager Gene Lamont said. "He was in total command. It seemed like he threw every pitch where he wanted. You hate to lose a performance like that."
But as good as McDowell was, he wasn't any better than Moyelast night. "That was as good as I've seen him," Oates said. "He has pitched great for us. He has kept us in a lot of games, so what he did is not surprising, considering the way he has pitched."
In the nine starts he has made for the Orioles, Moyer has had twbad outings, which in reality can be reduced to a pair of bad innings. He gave up seven runs in the second inning (five with two outs) against California in his third start May 30, and five against the Yankees in the fourth inning in his last start five days ago.
Eliminate those two innings and Moyer's ERA (3.68) is minuscule 1.64. He has won four in a row, one less than the longest winning streak of his career. Not bad for a supposed journeyman who had gone winless in the big leagues for almost three years.
The secret to his success last night was simple. "The first pitch,said Moyer, 30. "I was able to stay ahead of them by throwing the first pitch for strikes.
L "You've got to do it, especially if you're not overpowering."
Moyer definitely classifies as a pitcher who is not overpoweringbut that was of little concern to Oates. "The last time we were in here, the guy at the top of the lineup [Joey Cora] was on base all the time," said Oates. "And I don't think we ever got a strike on him or [Lance] Johnson. They were hitting 1-and-0 and 2-and-0 pitches all the time."
Moyer got all the help he needed from the Orioles' infield. Therweren't a lot of spectacular plays among the 16 ground balls induced by Moyer, but more than a few were on the difficult side.
Both starting pitchers were in control of the game from th outset. Moyer escaped mild threats in the first and second inning, and McDowell's only early brush with difficulty resulted in the game's lone run.
It was the only walk he allowed that hurt McDowell in the third.
It went to Hulett, who entered the game with a lifetime .52average against McDowell. After Jeffrey Hammonds lined out to Ellis Burks in right field, Harold Reynolds followed with a ground ball single between first and second and Hulett beat the throw from Burks to third. That proved pivotal when Hulett was able to score on Mark McLemore's sacrifice fly to center field.
That was the end of the Orioles' offense for the night. McLemorwas the first of 20 straight outs recorded by McDowell. But that streak wasn't enough as Moyer matched him almost pitch-for-pitch. Burks drew a one-out walk in the fourth and Bell looped a two-out single in the sixth.
But they were the only White Sox base runners Moyer alloweafter the second. Olson took over in the ninth, and retired Thomas and Bell routinely before giving up a single to Burks.
Robin Ventura, hitting for Bo Jackson, then drilled the last pitcof the game directly at first baseman David Segui for the final out.
- Orioles-White Sox scoring Orioles third: Hulett walked. Hammonds lined to right fielder Burks. Reynolds singled to right, Hulett to third. McLemore hit sacrifice fly to center fielder Johnson, Hulett scored. Ripken flied to left fielder Jackson. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 1, White Sox 0.
Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago
Orioles starter: Mike Mussina (9-3, 3.83)
White Sox starter: Alex Fernandez (8-4, 2.90)
TV: Chs. 2, 20
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)