Not only did Orioles pitcher Garrett Olson complete the fifth inning yesterday, making him eligible for his first major league victory, but he also was allowed to face a batter in the sixth. Interim manager Dave Trembley put the rookie on a longer leash, one that still wouldn't leave him tangled.
The remaining issue is whether the Orioles will put Olson in the rotation later this month.
Making his second start since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Norfolk, Olson held the Chicago White Sox to two runs and watched from the dugout as four relievers completed a 5-3 Orioles win before an announced 29,382 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (41-50) took three of four games from the White Sox before heading to Seattle for another West Coast trip. They won the season series, 5-3, for the first time in eight years.
"I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, and I don't want the team to get ahead of itself," Trembley said. "Everybody's feeling good about winning three of four, but there's a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of room for improvement. But we've got something to build on, and we didn't have that before."
Unlike the previous night, when the Orioles didn't take their initial lead until Nick Markakis' walk-off single in the 10th inning, they jumped ahead in the first inning on Aubrey Huff's two-run triple off Chicago starter Jose Contreras (5-11). Brian Roberts led off the third with a home run, and Corey Patterson hit the right-field foul pole leading off the fifth - his second homer in three games.
Olson (1-0) allowed bases-empty home runs to Jermaine Dye in the fourth and sixth innings. Trembley emerged from the dugout after Dye cleared the fence in right-center field, reducing the lead to 5-2, and Olson left to a standing ovation.
"We were playing hitter by hitter there," Trembley said.
In Olson's debut July 4, also against Chicago, Trembley removed him with one out in the fifth and the Orioles leading 6-2. Because he didn't go five innings, Olson couldn't qualify for the win, a move that left Trembley open to criticism.
With Olson finishing the fifth and the bullpen keeping the club ahead yesterday, it didn't become an issue. All that remained was for somebody to retrieve the ball for a souvenir.
"My attitude from the first inning was to go in and take the team to the late innings - try to get into the seventh or eighth inning and get as far as I could and give it all I had," Olson said.
Was it enough to give Olson another turn in the rotation?
The Orioles haven't made a decision on their prized prospect, but discussions will intensify this week. Steve Trachsel is scheduled to pitch Saturday in Oakland once he's activated from the disabled list, so Olson could head back to Norfolk or bump another starter.
"It's still too soon," said Jim Duquette, vice president of baseball operations.
"We really haven't talked about it. We just finished the game. It's something we're still talking about. But we're obviously happy with the way he pitched."
Asked if Olson, 23, will remain with the club, Trembley said, "He certainly showed that he can pitch here."
As long as he doesn't have to face Dye, who took him to left field in the fourth and right field in the sixth.
"A couple pitches I wish I could take back," Olson said. "I'll just have to have a different approach or change something up next time."
One of the key moments in the game occurred in the seventh, after Tadahito Iguchi's double off Paul Shuey with one out cut the lead to 5-3. Left-hander Jamie Walker retired Jim Thome, and Trembley brought in Danys Baez to face Paul Konerko.
A smattering of boos greeted Baez, who was making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list and lost his job as the right-handed setup man. Baez induced a flyout from Konerko and pumped his fist as he left the mound, then retired the side in order in the eighth.
"Baez is a proven guy that's pitched late in the games, been through the worst, so to speak," Trembley said. "He worked very hard to come back, and he deserves the opportunity to be put out there not only for him but for the team."
Said Baez: "I feel more comfortable out there. There's not any pain in my arm. And I really appreciated that Dave gave me the chance to be in that situation. He gave me the chance to be better and make the right pitch. It feels great to be part of the win today."
Chris Ray registered his 16th save, striking out two, and Olson had his win.
"He shows a really plus slider, a left-handed breaking ball," catcher Paul Bako said. "We probably could have used it a little bit more, but we wanted him to establish his fastball. We've been working on him trying to command it down and away. Once he commands his fastball a little bit better, he's got a real, real good shot to be successful up here. He's got good enough stuff."
Bako didn't need to calm Olson yesterday. He just reminded the rookie to keep attacking the strike zone.
Olson didn't take long strolls around the mound between pitches, as he did in Chicago. He worked more quickly and with more confidence.
Now the Orioles must decide where he'll work next.
"Trachsel is doing good right now, and he should be back soon," Olson said, "and we'll see what the club has in store for us."