Moyer's lasting impression wins over fans, Royals, 3-2


The sellout crowd of 45,324 was hot and bothered.

It booed Orioles manager Phil Regan during his eighth-inning march to the pitcher's mound, booed his return to the dugout, booed him for taking out starter Jamie Moyer.

The erstwhile reliever who in past years couldn't go more than six innings as a starter pitched like the staff ace yesterday, pacing the Orioles to a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals and winning the hearts of the fans.

"A lot of managers out there today," Regan joked afterward. "It was great."

Moyer (5-3) pitched 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the year, striking out a season-high seven, allowing three hits and walking none. Both runs off him were unearned.

The Orioles mustered only four hits, but two of them were home runs, a bases-empty shot by Rafael Palmeiro and a two-run blast by Cal Ripken.

That was all Moyer needed to post his fourth straight victory. The lefty's gotten through seven innings and given up two runs or less in his last five starts.

"Moyer's pitched outstanding," said Regan, using one of his favorite adjectives. "What else can you say, he's been outstanding his last five starts."

After Wally Joyner singled in the first inning, the left-hander retired 16 straight batters before Chris James doubled with two outs in the sixth.

Regan credits Moyer's quality starts, most them while Ben McDonald and Kevin Brown have been on the disabled list, to the tutelage of pitching coach Mike Flanagan.

A fellow left-hander and former Orioles teammate, Flanagan has helped Moyer hold runners better and improve his curveball. But the big thing they've worked on is Moyer's stamina.

Not even the 93-degree temperature at game time yesterday bothered Moyer.

"I probably felt as good, physically, in the eighth, as any game I've pitched into the seventh," Moyer said. "It seemed like it got a little cooler out there. The heat was hardly a factor."

What has been a factor is Flanagan's suggestion that Moyer throw fewer pitches in the bullpen before the game and between innings.

"That's like 20 extra pitches he throws in the game," Flanagan said.

Moyer threw 100 pitches yesterday, 69 of them strikes. He said he didn't have his best stuff, mostly spotting his fastball and cut fastball and trying to get the Royals hitters to put the ball in play.

-! They did. Moyer retired eight

straight Royals on grounders from the third through the sixth innings. He kept them off-balance the whole game, only six balls left the infield -- three hits and three flyouts.

Statistically, the Royals are the worst-hitting team in the league, according to their total hits and runs scored. They featured three hitters yesterday -- Bob Hamelin, Phil Hiatt and David Howard -- with sub-.200 batting averages.

But the Orioles, fresh off a season-high 17-hit performance the day before, did not hit much better. All four of their hits came off Kansas City starter Melvin Bunch (0-1), fresh up from Triple-A Omaha.

Palmeiro got the first hit of the game in the fourth inning, smacking his 17th homer to center field.

After uneventful hits by Jeffrey Hammonds and Manny Alexander, the Orioles finally got to Bunch again in the seventh. Palmeiro fought through an eight-pitch at-bat for a walk that seemed to wear out the young pitcher. The next batter, Ripken, homered 395 feet to left.

It was Ripken's eighth of the season and the first time since May 16 against Detroit that Ripken and Palmeiro homered in the same game.

It was some consolation to Kansas City manager Bob Boone that players of that caliber proved the difference. "We got beat by $12 million worth of ballplayers," Boone said.

But without Moyer, three runs and four hits don't cut it. The Orioles lose three of four instead of splitting the four-game series.

The unearned runs against Moyer came after Regan pulled him with two outs -- both strikeouts -- and runners on first and second in the eighth inning, amidst a chorus of boos.

Howard singled to left and Tom Goodwin reached base when catcher Greg Zaun misplayed a bunt that appeared to be headed foul. That brought up leadoff man James, who has a .368 for-36) lifetime average, four doubles, a triple and two home runs off Moyer.

Regan brought in Terry Clark, who yielded a double off the right-field scoreboard to pinch hitter Joe Nunnally. Two runs scored. The boos continued.

Regan stands by the percentage move, no matter what the fans say.

"If it happened another 1,000 times, I'd do it the same way," Regan said. "If I have him in there and James hits a home run, you're asking me why. I don't even think twice about that move. Not twice."

Moyer acknowledged his past troubles with James, including his double in the sixth inning. The two athletes played mind games when they bumped into each other the day before.

"I said, 'Tomorrow, I'm going to tell you what's coming,' " Moyer said. "He said, 'No you won't.'

"A lot of those numbers came in the National League. He hit me well. I remembered it, and he remembered it. He just didn't want to admit it."

After the double, Regan replaced Clark with Jesse Orosco, who struck out Joyner to end the eighth inning. Doug Jones recorded his 15th save in a wild ninth inning in which pinch runner Vince Coleman was ejected at first base by second base umpire John Hirschbeck.

But it was Moyer who won the day.

On a team filled with powerful starting pitchers -- McDonald, Brown, Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson -- the soft-tossing Moyer has been the most dependable of late.

"If a guy goes out and pitches well, you say, 'I can go out and pitch my way and pitch well, too,' " Moyer said. "It has a snowball effect."

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