CHICAGO -- Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken is more nuts and bolts than flash, more substance over style. But his headlong dive saved the Orioles' 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox last night.
Ripken's catch saved a win for Jamie Moyer (4-3), who threw 7 1/3 strong innings for his third straight victory.
The Orioles led 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Norberto Martin singled to lead off, and stole second one out later. Tim Raines lined to left for the second out of the inning, and Lance Johnson faced Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco.
Orosco threw a pitch over the outer half of the plate, and Johnson went with it, hammered it, right up the middle. Ripken dived to his left, spearing the ball and holding onto it as he crashed to the ground. Out No. 3.
The Orioles and White Sox were tied 1-all before the Orioles moved ahead in the eighth. Manny Alexander singled to center to start the inning, and when first baseman Rafael Palmeiro grounded out into the first base hole -- hitting behind the runner -- Alexander went to second.
Chicago manager Terry Bevington chose to walk Ripken intentionally, and after Orioles manager Phil Regan inserted switch-hitting Kevin Bass to bat for the left-handed-hitting Harold Baines, Bevington called on Jose DeLeon to relieve left-hander Tim Fortugno. Bass would bat left-handed instead of right-handed.
Didn't matter. He slapped a single to center to score Alexander, giving the Orioles the lead for Moyer.
The left-hander has been the Orioles' best pitcher over the past few weeks. But even as he continued to get outs, beating the Milwaukee Brewers and the Toronto Blue Jays, Moyer conceded that on any given night, he might get hit around and last two or three innings. He depends on savvy and control, relying on finesse; if he doesn't have it, he could get rocked.
So it looked bad in the first inning last night, when Moyer walked White Sox leadoff hitter Raines. Johnson singled Raines to second and the two speedsters executed a double steal. Second and third, nobody out, and Frank Thomas at the plate.
The Orioles needed Moyer to pitch deep into the game, needed him to be effective. Their bullpen has been taxed, and they were coming off a monumental disappointment, two losses in a three-game series against Minnesota. They couldn't afford to have him knocked out early.
And he came back. Rather than pitch around Thomas, Moyer pitched to him, and got him to fly to center. Raines scored, and Johnson moved to third. Mike Devereaux smashed a grounder into the third base hole, but Jeff Huson dove and gloved the shot -- the play happening so quickly that Johnson couldn't break for home -- and then Huson rose and threw Devereaux out at first (Devereaux failing, of course, to hit the ball to the right side with the infield back, a tendency he had with the Orioles).
John Kruk grounded out, first baseman Palmeiro to Moyer covering, and all things considered, Moyer escaped cheaply. Runners at second and third and nobody out and Frank Thomas coming up and only one run scored.
From then on, he dominated the White Sox, in his own touchy-feely, curveball-changeup way.
From Thomas' at-bat in the first inning through the seventh inning, the White Sox had three hits and no walks. A leadoff single by Craig Grebeck in the second, a leadoff single by Raines in the third, and a two-out single by Thomas in the sixth (Thomas' hit came on a super pitch by Moyer, about six inches off the ground in a situation when Thomas was trying to drive the ball).
After Moyer held Milwaukee hitless for the first 5 2/3 innings last week, somebody asked pitching coach Mike Flanagan about how Moyer was getting anybody out. Flanagan went on to describe how the left-hander had improved his breaking pitch, how he was spotting his changeup so well.
"I really believe in Jamie Moyer and what he can do," Flanagan said.
His questioner responded with an expression of skepticism; Moyer's game against the Brewers seemed like a fluke at the time.
"I'm not lying to you," Flanagan said. "He's really pitching well. I really believe in him."
When Moyer left after 7 1/3 innings, the Comiskey Park crowd cheered him politely, and he responded in kind with a slight, modest tip of his cap.
The White Sox had drawn first blood against Moyer, but the Orioles tied the score at 1-all in the fifth inning. Huson singled, Chris Hoiles followed with a double -- one of three hits on the night by the previously slumping catcher -- and Curtis Goodwin scored Huson with a fly ball.
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rich Krivda (major-league debut) vs. White Sox's Jim Abbott (4-3, 3.28)