ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Orioles have some known quantities, such as shortstop Cal Ripken and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. And there are unknown quantities, such as right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds and pitcher Ben McDonald.
It's the unknown quantities that will determine whether the Orioles raise their level of play and lift themselves out of this early-season hole. The unknown quantities, Hammonds and McDonald, helped the Orioles finish their frustrating 12-game road trip on a high note last night, a 5-3 victory over California.
Hammonds, who has seemed to elevate his game daily since being promoted from Double-A Bowie a week ago, hit a two-run homer and singled, and McDonald perpetuated his Anaheim Stadium mastery, allowing just six hits and two runs in eight innings, walking none and striking out nine, to win his first game in seven starts.
By winning their last two games, the Orioles made what could've been a disastrous trip into something a little more bearable, five wins in 12 games.
McDonald joked Tuesday that maybe what the sluggish Orioles needed was a good brawl to shake things up, and that maybe he could knock down somebody to start the mayhem.
That might've helped, but what the Orioles really needed was another pitcher besides Kevin Brown or Mike Mussina to step up and pitch deep into the game and give some rest to the weary bullpen.
Another pitcher -- like McDonald, who had allowed 17 runs in his last 18 1/3 innings over four starts, never making it to the seventh inning. But last night, he was exceptional from the start.
McDonald, who had a lifetime record of 5-0 and an 0.91 ERA at Anaheim Stadium before last night's game, retired 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced. In that span, only three balls left the infield, a couple of flyouts and a single.
The Orioles led 4-0 before Angels catcher Greg Myers hit a bases-empty homer in the fifth, and the way this road trip has gone for the Orioles, you would have expected this to be the start of something big.
Nothing doing. McDonald continued to roll along, striking out two in the sixth and two in the seventh. It wasn't until the eighth inning that the bullpen began to stir.
And for good reason. With one out, the Angels had back-to-back infield singles, the first bouncing off the chest of second baseman Bret Barberie, the second off McDonald's leg. On a 2-2 pitch, Tony Phillips hit a checked-swing blooper that hit down the left-field line, signaled foul by third base umpire Derryl Cousins.
Except that everybody knew it was a fair ball -- including Cousins. The runners kept moving, Damion Easley scoring and Gary DiSarcina racing to third. Orioles manager Phil Regan, shortstop Cal Ripken and third baseman Jeff Manto all argued with Cousins, who admitted his mistake -- clearly, he had called the ball foul -- and said the ball was in play, anyway.
The Orioles' lead was down to two runs, and the Angels had runners at first and third and one out. Regan stuck with McDonald, and the right-hander responded. Jim Edmonds popped out to short left and Tim Salmon took a strike-three fastball on the outside corner; Salmon argued the call with plate umpire Tim Welke, and the replay showed that on this particular pitch, the outside corner may have been about four or five inches farther outside.
The Orioles added an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Kevin Bass walked, stole second, ran to third on a single by Barberie, and when left fielder Phillips kicked Barberie's hit, Bass raced home, nearly bumping into third base coach Steve Boros.
The Orioles then survived a scare in the bottom of the ninth. Closer Doug Jones relieved McDonald and the Angels soon had runners at second and third and one out. Spike Owen hit a bouncer toward left. But Manto dove to his left to glove the ball, and, from his knees, threw out Owen. A run scored, but the out was huge.
Easley then grounded to short to end the game and the road trip.
Some members of the organization say privately that Hammonds could be a pivotal player this season, because unlike many of the Orioles players, his career has not reached its apex. If he runs well enough on his surgically repaired knee and creates runs, he could be a very good player. The Orioles, needing an impact offensive player to bolster their lineup, may have one in their lineup.
If Hammonds runs well. If he hits.
He hit Angels starter Scott Sanderson. And hard.
After Barberie grounded out to start the third inning, Brady Anderson doubled. Sanderson then tried to slip a fastball past Hammonds, on the inside part of the plate. Hammonds lowered his back hip and powered his bat into the pitch. The moment of contact was so loud, ball crashing off bat, that the Anaheim crowd emitted a collective oooh.
Hammonds' homer carried deep into the California bullpen in left, a bomb; if Barry Bonds had hit it, he may have waited for it to stop rolling before he started into his home run trot. Orioles 2, Angels 0.
Harold Baines (3-for-4), who is quietly putting together another solid season, slammed a homer to right leading off the fourth inning.
Then catcher Chris Hoiles chopped a grounder into the shortstop hole, where DiSarcina backhanded the ball and threw a one-bouncer to first. Except on the bounce, the ball skidded low and under the glove of first baseman J. T. Snow, into a photographer's well. A two-base error.
Bass hit a bounder to short, and Hoiles read the play quickly and correctly and hustled to third. He scored when, with two outs, Barberie singled to center. It was the second RBI of the year for the Orioles' second basemen, Barberie and Manny Alexander, and another sign of resurgence for Barberie; he is 8-for-his-last-14, lifting his average to .289.