There were two keys to the Orioles' 10-3 win over the California Angels -- one a play, the other a performance. Both were obscured by the Orioles' six-run third inning.
It was a crucial error by third baseman Rex Hudler that turned around the game -- and five strong innings from reliever Mark Williamson that kept the Angels in a deep hole. Hudler's miscue came when Tim Hulett appeared to lose his first-to-third gamble on a single by Brady Anderson with nobody out.
The throw from center fielder Chad Curtis arrived in plenty of time, but Hudler dropped the ball. "I'm sure he was screened out [by Hulett]," said Orioles third base coach Jerry Narron, who had the third best look at the play.
Hudler, who had the best view, was more blunt. "I butchered it," he admitted. When Hudler tried to make the tag, the ball was laying next to third base and umpire Ed Hickox, with the second-best vantage point, had an easy call.
The play left Angels starter Brian Anderson in a second-and-third, nobody-out mess, which he promptly made worse by walking Chris Sabo. "I was trying to get out of that situation without giving up anything," said the left-hander. "I probably picked more than I should have."
California manager Rene Lachemann agreed, saying his pitcher should've concentrated on getting outs rather than preventing runs. "He was trying to get out of it without giving up any runs -- and you can't expect that against guys like [Rafael] Palmeiro and [Cal] Ripken," said Lachemann.
A single by Palmeiro and home run by Ripken turned the Angels' 2-0 lead into a 5-2 deficit, which grew to 6-2 when Chris Hoiles homered off reliever Craig Lefferts. That was more than enough for Williamson, who replaced Arthur Rhodes to start the fourth inning.
"That's the best role for Willie -- he's at his best when he has a little room and can use all of his pitches," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates.
"In that situation I know I've got to go through the [entire] lineup," said Williamson. "That doesn't bother me -- it's not like I'm a two-pitch pitcher. With a 6-2 lead, I had some margin for error.
"I made a mistake to Chili Davis and it was a home run, but we had a 7-2 lead. The last time I made a mistake it was the ballgame."
He was referring to a two-run homer by Albert Belle that beat the Orioles, 4-2, on Thursday in Cleveland. Two nights earlier, Belle had beaten Alan Mills with a ninth-inning home run, but that wasn't the reason Williamson got the call.
"With one out, I wanted Williamson to face [Eddie] Murray rather than Mills," said Oates. "Left-handers were hitting .218 against Williamson and .318 against Mills -- and I didn't want Eddie up there knowing he was going to get a fastball. It was a case of trying to slide by one guy and getting burned."
Williamson didn't get burned yesterday. He gave up only three hits and one run, never allowing the Angels a chance to get back into the game.