CHICAGO -- Being the best 4-8 pitcher in baseball is like winning the booby prize. You'd rather not accept it, but there's not a whole lot you can do about it.
That's the position Ben McDonald finds himself in after suffering another disappointing loss, as the Orioles dropped a 3-1 decision to the Chicago White Sox yesterday afternoon. McDonald allowed only four hits in seven-plus innings and didn't walk a batter, but the Orioles continued their pattern of not providing him with any run support.
In his past seven starts, McDonald has allowed 10 earned runs in 44 1/3 innings for an ERA of 2.03 -- but he is only 2-3 in that stretch, including his eight-inning, three-hit loss to the Toronto Blue Jays last Tuesday. Yesterday, on a day he said he didn't have good stuff, McDonald made two mistakes -- both hit for triples -- that cost him three runs.
A triple into the right-center-field gap by Lance Johnson in the third inning set up Chicago's first run. It scored when second baseman Harold Reynolds made a wide, off-balance throw to the plate on a bouncer by Ozzie Guillen.
"The pitch to Johnson [a high breaking ball] was the worst one I threw all day," said McDonald. "He did what he was supposed to do with it."
Tim Raines had the other triple in the sixth inning. It came after a single by Guillen and before a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Joey Cora.
"The pitch to Raines was a fastball that stayed up," said McDonald, whose only strikeout came on three low fastballs to the White Sox leadoff hitter in the third inning.
"I was thinking Cora might bunt, and if he squared [his stance] earlier, I would've thrown the ball up and away. But he didn't turn until the ball was out of my hand. They executed great on that play."
The Orioles' lone run came on Cal Ripken's 10th home run of the year, in the first inning. But the Orioles had only two hits the rest of the way against Rod Bolton (1-4) and a pair of relievers and had to settle with a split of the four-game series against the White Sox.
Despite the loss, manager Johnny Oates and McDonald were upbeat about the right-hander's performance. "I've been encouraged by what I've seen from him for about the last 12 starts," said Oates.
"He's throwing the ball great, and he's being creative, doing things like throwing sliders in fastball counts. When you can go out and pitch a four-hitter and three-hitter like he has against teams like that [Toronto and Chicago], it's impressive.
"He's come a long way. If he keeps throwing the ball like he is, he's going to start intimidating people," said Oates.
If there was any consolation for McDonald, it was his ability to get out good hitters without being able to overpower them.
"If I had gone out there with that stuff two or three years ago, I probably wouldn't have gotten out of the third inning," he said.
"In that regard, I got more satisfaction out of this game than the last one [the 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays]. That time, I just had great stuff. When I have great stuff, I expect to pitch well and win.
"This time, though, I really had to pitch. I had a below-average fastball and didn't have a good slider, although I made some decent pitches with it," said McDonald.
"I'm just hoping that things will get better in the second half if I keep pitching the way I am right now. I'm not worried about the other things [lack of run support].
"The good pitchers that I've talked to have all told me to just concentrate on doing my job -- don't complicate it by thinking about other things. That's what I'm doing, and what I'll keep on doing."
A shutout was the only way McDonald could have won yesterday, because the Orioles swung lame bats all afternoon.
Harold Baines followed Ripken's homer with a single to left, but after that, the Orioles didn't have a full-swing hit the rest of the day.
For the second time in the four games here [Jack McDowell did it in a 1-0 White Sox loss Thursday night], the last 20 Orioles went out in order. Reynolds had a bunt single in the third, but everything else resulted in a routine out.
In his previous four starts, Bolton had not allowed fewer than eight hits. He was roughed up for nine hits and eight runs in 3 2/3 innings in his last start against Cleveland.
But Bolton was in charge while recording his first major-league victory yesterday. "It has been a long time coming," he said. "My main focus was not to walk anyone or get behind in the count."
Except for Ripken, who hit a 3-1 pitch, Bolton was ahead of the hitters all day, and that pattern continued with Donn Pall and Roberto Hernandez, each of whom pitched an inning to wrap up the win.
"In the first inning he [Bolton] was up a little bit," said White Sox manager Gene Lamont. "After that, he kept it down and got a lot of ground balls . That's the type of pitcher he has to be -- he has to keep the ball down and have good control in the strike zone."
And it almost figured that Bolton would pitch to his strength yesterday. So far at least, it's been that kind of year for McDonald.
- Orioles-White Sox scoring Orioles first: Reynolds flied to center fielder Johnson. McLemore grounded to second baseman Cora. Ripken homered to left on 3-1 count. Baines singled to left. Devereaux struck out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 1, White Sox 0.
White Sox third: Johnson tripled to center. LaValliere flied to left fielder Hammonds. Guillen grounded into fielder's choice, second baseman Reynolds to catcher Tackett, Johnson scored. Raines struck out. Guillen caught stealing, catcher Tackett to second baseman Reynolds. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. White Sox 1, Orioles 1.
White Sox sixth: LaValliere flied to right fielder McLemore. Guillen singled to left. Raines tripled to left-center, Guillen scored. Cora sacrificed to pitcher McDonald, Raines scored. Thomas grounded to third baseman Hulett. 2 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. White Sox 3, Orioles 1.
Site: Ewing Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
Time: 8:35 p.m.
Orioles starter: Fernando Valenzuela (3-7, 4.29)
4Royals starter: Kevin Appier (9-4, 3.04)
TV: Channels 2, 20
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)
How Ben McDonald has fared over his past seven starts, during which he has a 2.03 ERA but has received little run support from the Orioles. In his three losses, the Orioles have been outscored, 9-3. (Orioles score listed first in results)
Date Opp.. .. .. Res.. .. .. Score .. .. IP.. ..H .. ..ER
7/4 .Chi.. .. .. L .. .. .. 1-3 .. .. .. 7 .. .4 .. ..3
6/29 Tor.. .. .. L .. .. .. 1-2 .. .. .. 8 .. .3 .. ..2
6/24 Det. .. .. W . .. .. .6-2 .. .. .. 5 1/3 .. 6 .. ..1
6/18 Cle. .. .. ..W .. .. .. 4-1 .. .. .. 6 1/3 .. 7 .. ..1
6/12 Bos. .. .. ND .. .. .. 5-1 .. .. .. 7 .. 6 .. ..1
6/7 Oak. .. .. ..ND .. .. .. 3-2 .. .. .. 6 2/3 .. 4 .. ..1
6/1 Oak. .. .. .. L .. .. .. 1-4 .. .. .. 4 .. 3 .. ..1
Tot. .. .. .. .. 2-3 .. .. .. .. ... ... 44 1/3 ..33 .. .10