MILWAUKEE -- Somebody had to step up after Ben McDonald and Kevin Brown were injured last week. Somebody had to step forward in the rotation, pick up the slack, keep the Orioles close in the AL East race.
Somebody has. Left-hander Jamie Moyer, part-time reliever, allowed the Milwaukee Brewers no hits for 5 2/3 innings last night, and combined with relievers Terry Clark and Doug Jones for a two-hit, 2-0 victory -- the first shutout of the year for the Orioles.
This, the day after Arthur Rhodes dominated the Boston Red Sox. Somebody has stepped up. Times two.
"Jamie Moyer was just outstanding," said Orioles manager Phil Regan. "He changed speeds well, he got his breaking pitch over for strikes."
Rafael Palmeiro and Kevin Bass drove in the runs for the Orioles, who've won four of their last six games.
Moyer as a candidate to throw a no-hitter seemed rather implausible. This was, after all, just his fifth start this year; he started the year in relief, and had never thrown more than seven innings. In 11 2/3 innings pitched on the road before last night, Moyer had allowed 15 hits and eight walks and eight runs.
And most no-hitters are thrown by power pitchers, who dominate with their fastball. Nolan Ryan threw no-hitters. Sandy Koufax threw no-hitters.
Moyer, on the other hand, is a finesse pitcher, mixing and matching his average fastball with his off-speed stuff. When he is going well, it's because he's spotting his pitches well, not because he's blowing away hitters.
(He flirted with a no-hitter once before, in 1987. Pitching for the Chicago Cubs, he held the Philadelphia Phillies hitless for eight innings, before Juan Samuel's single in the ninth.)
But there it was, Jamie Moyer bidding for a no-hitter. He struck out Joe Oliver and Matt Mieske to finish the second inning. Moyer walked Jose Valentin with two outs in the third and Brewers third baseman Jeff Cirillo lashed a line drive -- speared by Leo Gomez, over his head, the ball hit so hard that Gomez's glove jerked backward.
The County Stadium crowd began to pick up on the situation during the fourth inning, when Darryl Hamilton struck out, and Kevin Seitzer and B. J. Surhoff grounded out. Murmurs. Jamie Moyer was no-hitting Milwaukee.
The Brewers went down in order in the fifth, and the murmurs became groans. Their concern was legitimate; nobody was really hitting the ball hard.
David Hulse grounded out to start the sixth, Valentin flied to deep center. At that moment, Moyer had recorded 17 of the 27 outs required for a no-hitter.
He would go no further. Cirillo, who had come so close to a hit in the third, lined a single over the middle. As the ball went seven or eight feet over Moyer's head, he reached up with his glove. He had no chance. The ball landed in short center, far in front of center fielder Curtis Goodwin.
Brewers fans cheered, some in appreciation for the hit, some in sarcasm. And, probably, some for Moyer's effort.
"The pitch he hit was a pretty good pitch," Moyer said. "The only thing I was thinking was, 'If Curtis is playing right behind second base, we've got a chance.' "
As often happens after pitchers lose no-hit bids, Moyer staggered a bit. Hamilton singled, too, another line drive, and pitching coach Mike Flanagan jogged to the mound.
No sooner than Flanagan descended back down the dugout steps, however, Moyer hung a breaking ball to Seitzer, a high-average hitter with warning-track power. Seitzer unloaded on the curve, driving it to deep center. The roar of the crowd rose as the ball carried . . . to the warning track, where Goodwin caught it as he cantered toward the wall.
The Brewers went down 1-2-3 again in the seventh, and Listach flied to right to open the eighth inning. But Hulse walked, and after Brewers manager Phil Garner inserted Greg Vaughn as a pinch hitter for Valentin -- it had come down to this, hoping for a two-run homer -- Regan walked out of the dugout and called to the bullpen, slapping his hands together. A golf clap for Moyer from a manager desperate for good starting pitching.
The reliever was right-hander Clark, and Garner countered that move by pinch-hitting Dave Nilsson for Vaughn. Nilsson had only five previous at-bats, but he is left-handed and hits with power.
This time, Clark, a sinkerballer, got Nilsson to bounce into a double play, started by second baseman Manny Alexander.
Moyer's incredible pitching line was complete: 7 1/3 innings, two hits, three walks and six strikeouts.
"I really have a lot of confidence in Jamie Moyer," said Flanagan. "I really feel like he's locked in right now."
Moyer said he never really thought much about the no-hitter. "I was pretty much trying to take it inning-by-inning, batter-by-batter," he said.
The Orioles gave Moyer a lead to work with, albeit a slim lead, in the third inning. Goodwin, hitting .337 at the game's outset, singled to center and swiped second, his 11th steal of the year. Brady Anderson walked and Alexander laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners.
Palmeiro singled to right, scoring Goodwin, and Anderson stopped at third; no need to risk a runner being thrown out at home with Cal Ripken coming up and just one out. But the rally fell apart when Ripken grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Orioles scored again in the sixth. Ripken slapped a grounder down the right-field line, reaching second ahead of Mieske's throw. Jeffrey Hammonds struck out, the second out of the inning.
It was left to Orioles designated hitter Kevin Bass to salvage the threat. Regan has said repeatedly that every day it seems as if Bass does something to help the Orioles.
He did it again, lining a single to center and scoring Ripken.
More than enough for Jamie Moyer.
Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers
Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' John DeSilva (1995 debut) vs. Brewers' Steve Sparks (3-2, 2.84)