The Orioles have discovered the formula for victory on this homestand, now they just have to figure out a way to duplicate it.
For the second time this week, the Orioles combined strong TTC pitching with a five-run inning for a win.
Ben McDonald restricted the Minnesota Twins to eight hits and Chris Sabo, Mark McLemore and Leo Gomez led a 13-hit attack as the Orioles rolled to an uncommonly easy 9-2 win. McDonald did not walk a batter and struck out five while recording his third complete game of the year.
The triumph was secured by a five-run outburst in the fifth inning, which started with a double by Sabo and run-scoring singles by McLemore and Gomez. In their only other win this homestand, the Orioles also used a five-run rally, in the eighth, and a strong effort by starting pitcher Jamie Moyer to beat the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.
Last night's win enabled McDonald (10-4) to join Kansas City's David Cone and New York's Jimmy Key as the American League's only 10-game winners. For Minnesota starter Kevin Tapani (8-3), the loss broke a personal career-high seven-game winning streak. It also stopped the Twins' seven-game win streak.
After losing two games in the standings to the Yankees in the past four days, the Orioles reclaimed half of the lost territory last night. Coupled with Milwaukee's 8-1 win in New York, the win enabled the Orioles to move within two games of the American League East leaders.
As was the case in his last start, McDonald took command early. "He was as good as I've seen him this year," said catcher Chris Hoiles. "He got his breaking ball over for strikes early in the count and he had a good, live fastball and sinker -- he even had the forkball working."
Minnesota manager Tom Kelly and Tapani agreed with Hoiles' evaluation. "It was a game dominated by McDonald," said Kelly. "He had an excellent fastball and a curve he threw for strikes all night.
"We didn't play exceptionally well in the field, but he made us look pretty bad. Give the other guy credit. There are going to be games where you run into good pitchers and they'll shut you down."
That's what Tapani has been doing of late, but last night the Orioles found some open areas and worked the ball to all fields.
"They did a good job of putting the ball in play and hitting it the other way," said Tapani. "And McDonald threw the ball great. It just didn't work out. It wasn't my night."
McDonald said that he felt his last two starts are the closest he's been to the form he displayed the last half of last season.
It hasn't hurt McDonald that, unlike last year, he's received ample offensive support. "People kept telling me that if you last long enough, you'll get the runs you need," he said. "That's why I have 10 wins. The guys have gone out and scored runs."
Sabo, who has started the past eight games in right field, was Tapani's chief tormentor, collecting two singles and a double in his first three at-bats. McLemore had a double, single and walk and, like Sabo, drove in two runs and scored once.
Gomez's bat remained hot with a single, double and his ninth home run, a bases-empty shot that concluded the Orioles' scoring in the eighth inning.
The teams entered the game working on opposite cycles. The Twins were on a roll, having won a season-high seven in a row, nine of 10 and 29 of their past 34 games.
Conversely, the Orioles were mired in a 14-18 stretch that began with three losses in Minnesota last month and included three losses in four games against the Yankees.
A lack of timely hitting was costly against the Yankees, and surfaced again early last night, even though the Orioles bunched three hits for a pair of runs in the third inning.
An inning later the Orioles let Tapani off the hook. Harold Baines opened with a walk and Gomez followed with a double to left-center. When the ball didn't go beyond the outfielders, coach Jerry Narron signaled for Baines to stop at third.
It was a conservative move based on the tenuous condition of Baines' gimpy knees and the fact there were no outs. But it proved to be a decision that would backfire because the Orioles failed in three attempts to advance the runners.
Dwight Smith, making his first start for the Orioles, flied to shallow left field and, after Hoiles walked to load the bases, McLemore struck out and Anderson flied out.
However, Tapani, whose winning streak included a complete-game five-hitter against the Orioles on May 15, couldn't escape a barrage of hits in the fifth inning. Sabo led off with a double and scored on Cal Ripken's one-out single to make it 3-0.
Shortstop Pat Meares dropped Baines' pop fly after a long run, and Gomez hit a broken-bat single to score Ripken. After Smith struck out, Tapani walked Hoiles to load the bases for the second straight inning. This time McLemore answered with a two-run single, a sharp drive to left field, and Tapani was finished. Reliever Brett Merriman walked Anderson and Sabo to force in another run before striking out Palmeiro.
While his teammates were enjoying their offensive exercise, McDonald held up his end, dispatching the Twins with relative ease. The Twins managed only three runners in the first five innings and didn't get on the scoreboard until the sixth, when Chuck Knoblauch's one-out double and Kirby Puckett's two-out
bloop single made the score 7-1.
Opponent: Minnesota Twins
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Twins' Jim Deshaies (3-6, 6.60) vs. Orioles' Sid Fernandez (3-4, 4.32)
Tickets: Several hundred scattered singles remain, not including bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.