MILWAUKEE — MILWAUKEE -- Approaching their season's low point, the Orioles dusted off two of their long-forgotten parts last night and received a keepsake in return.
Struggling to retain his spot in the rotation, Shawn Boskie survived a perilous start to scatter four hits over five-plus innings to earn his first win of the season as a starter. As for offense, Pete Incaviglia produced a rally-starting single in a five-run second inning, then followed with a monster home run in the third.
The unlikely combination pushed the Orioles to a 6-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, temporarily stopping the hand-wringing over a slumbering offense that had been shut out three times in the last six games.
The Orioles got their first RBI from catcher Tim Laker, who made his first appearance in an Orioles uniform. They broke open the inning with a two-out single from Roberto Alomar hitting from the wrong side of the plate.
Topping the night was Arthur Rhodes' second professional save, a perfect four-inning showing.
"You're a heel one day, a hero the next," said Incaviglia, who the day before had predicted his release from the club. "The last 30 at-bats I've been struggling a lot. If you look around, a lot of guys have been struggling for the last 30 at-bats. Mine are more visible because I haven't played a lot."
For Boskie (4-3), it is uncertain whether the decision will serve as anything more than a fond remembrance. The club still is expected to promote Rick Krivda from Triple-A Rochester.
"I felt like it was a one-game tryout," said Boskie, who retired 15 of 19 batters after giving up consecutive doubles in the first inning. "Every game is going to be like that until I throw together six, seven or eight solid outings. That's not necessarily bad. I've felt that way before, though not during a season. In spring training I've had to earn spots. I definitely felt like that this time."
Manager Davey Johnson said on Monday that he would not base a decision on the start, regardless of how good or bad. He said the same thing after Boskie's outing, which was the first win from an Orioles' fifth starter since May 4.
"It wasn't like it was an audition," said Johnson, who added that he believed Boskie would remain in the rotation for the time being.
Last night marked the first time in six starts Boskie had pitched into the sixth inning. He made it, but barely.
Protecting a 6-2 lead, he allowed a leadoff double to third baseman Jeff Cirillo. He'd barely had the ball returned to him when Johnson walked to the mound with a hook and called for Rhodes.
Still, Boskie's five-inning start gave some reason for optimism. After a nearly ruinous first inning he consistently pitched ahead, allowing the Brewers only two hits after consecutive doubles to begin the game. He retired seven consecutive hitters before Cirillo's double drove him from the game.
"We gave each other a hearty high-five after the game," Boskie said of he and Incaviglia. "That's the great thing about this team. We pull for each other. Nobody wants to see a guy go down in a ball of flames."
Interestingly, Boskie had beaten the Brewers in his last matchup against them -- a 6-4 win last June 22 with the California Angels. He entered the start with a career 2-0 record against Milwaukee.
Coming off a troubled five-inning start against the Montreal Expos June 16, Boskie appeared set to implode early. Mark Loretta led off the game with a double that appeared to confuse left fielder B. J. Surhoff. Playing on grass soaked by a 50-minute rain delay, Surhoff appeared to start and stop after the ball.
Jeromy Burnitz, who crushed the Orioles with a home run and a double in Monday's 5-0 game, then doubled home Loretta.
Boskie then tried to prevent a blowout inning. He succeeded by getting a ground ball out that advanced Burnitz to third, walking David Nilsson, then allowing a second run on Jose Valentin's grounder to third.
A two-run deficit has represented a mountain for the Orioles' offense the past two weeks. Against left-hander Scott Karl it was hardly a speed bump.
Prodded by Incaviglia's leadoff single, the Orioles produced their biggest inning since a five-run outburst against the New York Yankees May 27, the night Incaviglia managed a season-high four RBIs on a pair of two-run singles.
Jeffrey Hammonds stoked the inning with another single behind Incaviglia. Surhoff's fielder's choice put runners on first and third for Laker.
He lifted a fly ball to medium left field. Ordinarily, Incaviglia may not have been asked to tag. But dire times require dire measures. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo sent Incaviglia, who inadvertently blocked the throw with his backside.
"I don't try to put any extra pressure on myself," said Incaviglia. "I just try to go out and play as well as I can and build off that. I try to do what I can even if it hadn't been going the way I'd like recently."
With two outs, the inning flew open. Mike Bordick singled Surhoff to second base and Brady Anderson walked to load the bases. Alomar then provided the inning's biggest hit when, hitting left-handed against the left-hander Karl, he lined a two-run single, scoring Surhoff and Bordick. Ahead 3-2, Cal Ripken then topped the breakout with his third double in three games. Anderson and Alomar scored.
Incaviglia wasn't done. Having entered with only two hits since May 28, he launched a 426-foot first-pitch home run to center field to begin the third inning. The home run was his first extra-base hit since May 4.
The Orioles then fell back into the same pattern that had led to three shutouts in their previous five games. Karl (2-9), who missed his last start with a toe injury, allowed only two hits in his final 4 1/3 innings, at one point retiring 14 consecutive hitters. After Incaviglia's homer, the Orioles never put a runner into scoring position.
This time it didn't matter as Rhodes protected Boskie's win with another powerful showing in middle relief. With Cirillo at second base in the sixth, Rhodes forced a pair of infield foul outs and a fly ball.
He then struck out two hitters in the seventh before striking out the side in the eighth.
"It felt real good. I was using all my pitches, said Rhodes, earning his first save since last April. "I had my changeup working real good for the first time in about two months."
Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers
Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee
Time: 2: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: O's Mike Mussina (8-2, 3.50) vs. Brewers' Cal Eldred (7-7, 5.50)
Orioles reliever Arthur Rhodes hasn't given up an earned run since losing to Cleveland on May 25, lowering his ERA from 4.26 to 2.57:
Date, Opp, IP, H, ER, BB, SO
6/24, Mil, 4, 0, 0, 0, 5
6/22, Tor, 1, 0, 0, 0, 2
6/17, Mon, 2/3 , 0, 0, 0, 1
6/14, Atl, 3, 0, 0, 1, 6
6/12, Bos, 3, 1, 0, 0, 2
6/10, Bos, 3, 3, 0, 1, 5
6/6, Chi, 2, 1, 0, 0, 4
Tot, 16 2/3 , 5, 0, 2, 25
Pub Date: 6/25/97