ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Backed by eighth-inning, back-to-back home runs from Chris Sabo and Rafael Palmeiro, Ben McDonald pitched the Orioles to a 3-2 comeback victory over the California Angels last night.
This time winning a duel against California left-hander Mark Langston, McDonald (11-6, 4.26) pitched eight innings and allowed one run, five hits and three walks. He struck out five.
"I went through a rough period in June," said McDonald. "But my stuff is back and my command is back. I'm back to where I want to be."
This time, it didn't cost him the game -- although the runner did come around to score -- and Smith struck out two of the last three hitters to earn his 30th save in 34 chances.
Before the eighth, it looked like Langston (5-6, 4.43) was going to shut out the Orioles for the second time in 12 days.
"I was thinking there for a minute it was going to be 1-0 again," said McDonald, who developed a hot spot on his middle pitching finger and wouldn't have pitched the ninth even if he hadn't thrown 115 pitches. "Fortunately we scored a few runs."
Unfortunately it didn't result in first place for the Orioles, however. The New York Yankees rallied from a 7-1 deficit and scored seven runs in the ninth to defeat the Seattle Mariners, 13-8, to hold on to their half-game lead in the American League East.
The Orioles had much more trouble with Langston than his pitching line indicates. He allowed 10 hits, four walks and three runs (two earned) in 7 2/3 innings, but did not allow an extra-base hit through seven innings and had allowed only two runners to advance as far as second base.
"The two games he's pitched against us, he's pitched extremely well," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "Luckily for us, the guy who pitched against him threw just as well."
Langston took a 1-0 lead into the eighth and had extended his dominance of the Orioles to 25 innings without allowing an earned run until they unloaded on him in the three-run eighth.
Leading off, Sabo drove a 3-and-1 pitch over the left-field fence for his eighth home run to tie the score, 1-1, though not for long. The next batter, Palmeiro, crushed Langston's 1-1 pitch well into the right-field seats for his 16th home run to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
"I hit it well," said Palmeiro. "People are saying it went real far, but I didn't really see it. It was a hanging breaking ball and those are the ones that go the farthest."
The Orioles didn't stop there, providing McDonald -- who extends his finger to be fine for his next start -- with another insurance run.
Designated hitter Leo Gomez walked and took second on
Langston's wild pitch. Jeffrey Hammonds singled to left to set up a close play at the plate.
Jim Edmonds' throw to catcher Greg Myers beat Gomez to the plate. Home plate umpire Larry McCoy started his out call before noticing the ball dribbling in the dirt. Myers was charged with an error and Hammonds slid into third, just ahead of Myers' throw.
Hitting with two outs and one runner on base in the eighth, Chili Davis came close to tying it, his fly to left sending defensive replacement Jack Voigt back to the wall for the catch.
Two times earlier in the game, Oates had chosen to bypass Davis, walking him intentionally. With two outs in the sixth, Edmonds spoiled the strategy with an RBI single to break a scoreless tie.
McDonald took a two-hit shutout into the sixth and got in trouble immediately.
Chad Curtis led off with a double to left-center and was sacrificed to third by Spike Owen. It took a quick pounce off the mound by McDonald to get to the ball in time to make the play.
With the infield drawn in, Tim Salmon hit a sharp grounder to the third base side of shortstop Cal Ripken, who was playing at the edge of the grass. Ripken dove for it, held Curtis and threw out Salmon from his knees for the second out.
Davis, who along with Salmon is the only hitter in the feeble Angels lineup on a pace to drive in as many as 63 runs, was intentionally walked but Edmonds proved up to the challenge, singling sharply to right.
With that, the score became what it ended the last time Langston and McDonald hooked up. Angels 1, Orioles 0.
Against the rest of the league, Langston is 4-5 with a 5.27 ERA in 13 starts.
Langston brought a streak of 18 consecutive innings without allowing a run against the Orioles into the night. In his first start against the Orioles this season, he tossed a three-hit shutout to improve his career numbers at Camden Yards to 3-0, 1.20.
Langston proved in the first seven innings last night his mastery of the Orioles is not confined to one ballpark.
In the process, he won the battle between the league's safest running team and the league's top pickoff move.
The Orioles led the league with an .833 stolen base success rate (50-for-60) at the break. The Seattle Mariners were caught stealing the second-fewest times with 17.
They were no match for Langston, however.
Langston picked off Sabo in the first as Sabo's stride back to the bag fell short. Two innings later, Langston caught Mark McLemore breaking for second, threw to first baseman J. T. Snow, who threw to shortstop Gary DiSarcina for the tag. McLemore has stolen 15 bases in 20 attempts.
McLemore singled to left his next time up and nearly was picked off again.
Opponent: California Angels
Site: Anaheim Stadium
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Sid Fernandez (5-4, 4.96) vs. Angels' Phil Leftwich (4-7, 4.67)