He was too late to influence the voting, but Chris Hoiles punctuated his All-Star credentials last night. And in the process he sparked long overdue offensive support for Ben McDonald.
A three-run homer by Hoiles ignited a seven-run rally in the sixth inning that enabled the Orioles to pin a 15-6 defeat on the Chicago White Sox. The home run was his 17th of the year, the most among full-time major-league catchers.
The Orioles had spotted the American League West leaders a 3-0 lead before coming from behind to win for the 24th time this year. McDonald (5-8) was on the verge of an early exit in the first inning. But given a boost by a good defensive play by left fielder Brady Anderson and Hoiles, he proved resourceful enough to last six innings and get credit for the win.
The score doesn't reflect it, but the key to the game was McDonald's ability to keep the score close. "That's something he didn't use to be able to do," said manager Johnny Oates, impressed for the second straight time by McDonald's resilience in a game in which he didn't have his best stuff.
"He got creative again, throwing the breaking ball for strikes when he was behind. As hard as I work at not getting excited, I see a lot of things about Ben lately that I like."
For his part, McDonald saw a lot of things about the Orioles' offense that he liked. "I can't say enough about that. Chris [Hoiles] was tremendous. It's a travesty he's not on the All-Star team.
"But I told them [his teammates] after the game not to think we're even. I'd like to see that happen about eight or nine times the second half [of the season]. Then maybe I'd say we were even," said McDonald.
In addition to his home run, Hoiles added two singles, walked and was hit by a pitch in five plate appearances, raising his batting average to .297. He has 43 RBI, which ties Mark McLemore for the team lead and is three more than he had all of last year.
In addition to Hoiles, David Segui (No. 5) also homered for the Orioles, who batted around in two innings, collected 14 hits and got at least one RBI from every starter.
McDonald went into the game with 10 straight impressive starts, but found himself in trouble from the outset. Not since May 6 had he given up more than three earned runs in a game, and his ERA over that stretch was 2.38.
In his most recent start, in Chicago on Sunday, McDonald allowed only three hits in seven innings -- but all three of those runners scored in a 3-1 White Sox victory. It was the seventh time this year that the Orioles had scored one run or none in the 17 games McDonald had started.
"I think over the long run that [pitching without much run support] is going to make me a better pitcher," said McDonald. "It makes you concentrate, because you realize every pitch could mean the game."
Last night the White Sox put three runs on the board before McDonald could get out of the first inning. And it took a strong throw by Anderson to prevent a fourth run, which may have kept McDonald in the game.
A single by Tim Raines and a double by Joey Cora started the game. After Raines scored on his double, Cora moved to third on a fly to right field by Frank Thomas and crossed the plate on Robin Ventura's infield grounder. A walk to Dan Pasqua and singles by Bo Jackson and Lance Johnson accounted for the third run.
With Mark Williamson throwing in the bullpen, McDonald appeared on the verge of removal when Mike LaValliere singled to left. However, Anderson got to the ball quickly and made an accurate one-hop throw that arrived simultaneously with Jackson.
Hoiles caught the ball and applied the tag in one motion, and received a congratulatory pat on the back from Jackson at the end of the play. Given a reprieve, McDonald was able to stay around.
"That was a huge play," said McDonald, who used it as a springboard to save not only himself, but the pitching staff as well. At that point, the White Sox were within a hit of getting into the Orioles' bullpen in the first inning for the second straight night.
"I'm proud of him," pitching coach Dick Bosman said of McDonald. "He did some things out there you've got to like. The big winners find a way to stay out there until they score some runs, and that's what he did."
While McDonald struggled early, Rod Bolton was giving indications that his last performance, against the Orioles and McDonald, was no fluke. Winless in his first four decisions, Bolton earned his first major-league victory in that game.
The Orioles remained passive against Bolton through the first five innings, although they did manage a run on their only hit through that stretch. Tim Hulett opened the third inning with a looping single to right-center and Reynolds followed with a walk.
The runners advanced on McLemore's slow roller and Hulett scored on a sacrifice fly by Mike Devereaux before Harold Baines struck out to end the inning.
The Orioles finally broke through against Bolton (1-5) in the sixth. With one out, Cora booted a grounder by Baines. Ripken, who collected his 1,999th career hit two innings later, followed with a single. Bolton missed the strike zone on his first pitch to Hoiles, and wishes he had done the same with the second.
Hoiles didn't miss the 1-and-0 pitch, driving it into the left-field seats, the Orioles suddenly had a 4-3 lead and the rout began.
Orioles-White Sox scoring White Sox first: Raines singled to right. Cora doubled to left center, Raines scored. Thomas flied out to right fielder McLemore, Cora to third. Ventura grounded out to shortstop Ripken, Cora scored. Pasqua walked. Jackson singled to right ++ center, Pasqua to third. Johnson singled to right, Pasqua scored, Jackson to second. LaValliere singled down the left field line, Jackson to third, Johnson to second, Jackson out at home, left fielder Anderson to catcher Hoiles. 3 runs, 5 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. White Sox 3, Orioles 0.
Orioles third: Hulett singled to right center. Reynolds walked, Hulett to second. McLemore grounded out to first baseman Thomas, Hulett to third, Reynolds to second. Devereaux hit sacrifice fly to left fielder Raines, Hulett scored. Baines struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. White Sox 3, Orioles 1.
Orioles sixth: Devereaux grounded out to shortstop Guillen. Baines safe on second baseman Cora's fielding error. Ripken singled to center, Baines to second. Hoiles homered to left on LTC 1-0 count, Baines, Ripken and Hoiles scored. Segui singled to right. Schwarz relieved Bolton. Anderson struck out. Hulett walked, Segui to second. Reynolds walked, Segui to third, Hulett to second. McLemore walked, Segui scored, Hulett to third, Reynolds to second. Thigpen relieved Schwarz. Devereaux singled to second, Hulett scored, Reynolds to third, McLemore to second. Baines singled to left, Reynolds and McLemore scored, Devereaux to second. Ripken grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop Guillen to second baseman Cora, Baines forced at second. 7 runs, 5 hits, 1 error, 2 left on. Orioles 8, White Sox 3.
Orioles seventh: Hoiles singled to left. Segui homered to right center on 1-0 count, Hoiles and Segui scored. Anderson flied out to center fielder Johnson. Hulett singled to center. Reynolds flied out to center fielder Johnson. McLemore singled to right, Hulett to second. Devereaux flied out to center fielder Johnson. 2 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on.
Orioles 10, White Sox 3.
Orioles eighth: McCaskill pitching. Sax to right field, batting 5th. Grebeck to shortstop. Baines doubled down the left field line. Buford ran for Baines. On McCaskill's wild pitch, Buford to third. Ripken singled to pitcher, Buford scored. Hoiles singled down the right field line, Ripken to second. Segui walked, Ripken to third, Hoiles to second. Anderson doubled to right, Ripken and Hoiles scored, Segui to third. Hulett grounded out to second baseman Cora, Segui scored, Anderson to third. Reynolds hit sacrifice fly to left fielder Raines, Anderson scored. McLemore walked. Devereaux grounded out to second baseman Cora. 5 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 15, White Sox 3.
White Sox ninth: Pennington pitching. McLemore to third base, batting 2nd. Voigt to right field, batting 5th. Hulett to shortstop, batting 9th. Johnson singled to left. Karkovice, pinch hitting for LaValliere. On Pennington's wild pitch, Johnson to second. Karkovice walked. Grebeck walked, Johnson to third, Karkovice to second. Raines singled down the left field line, Johnson and Karkovice scored, Grebeck to second. Cora struck out. Thomas struck out. Ventura singled to right, Grebeck scored, Raines to second. Frohwirth relieved Pennington. Sax grounded into fielder's choice, third baseman McLemore to second baseman Reynolds, Ventura forced at second. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Orioles 15, White Sox 6.