Maybe the talk about trading Rich Dauer will quiet down, at least while his bat is aflame. Dauer came into this two-game series with a .129 batting average. But his three hits tonight, including his first home run of the year, led the Baltimore Orioles to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Memorial Stadium.
Dauer had singles in the first and fifth innings, and was robbed of a hit in the third. He scored on Cal Ripken's homer in the fifth and hit one himself in the seventh. The benefactor of all this was rookie Ken Dixon (2-0), who pitched six innings of one-run ball to lower his American League-leading earned run average to 1.25.
Don Aase's relief performance the last three innings was just as impressive. He allowed only one hit and earned his first save as an Oriole.
That the Orioles could score three runs off Britt Burns (3-2) was somewhat surprising. The 25-year-old left-hander was overpowering much of the night and finished with a career-high 12 strikeouts.
But Burns allowed Ripken's two-run homer in the fifth, an inning kept alive by Dauer's two-out single to center.
The White Sox were unlucky in the sixth on an apparent double by Carlton Fisk that hit umpire Tim Welke in the back and prevented at least one run.
The White Sox were trailing, 2-0, when Rudy Law doubled to start the sixth. After Dixon walked Scott Fletcher, Chicago filled the bases when Greg Walker singled with one out.
Fisk followed with a shot down the third base line that smacked umpire Welke instead of going into the left field corner. Fletcher would have scored easily, but held up. And Walker didn't know the ball didn't go through.
He rounded second and was trapped in a rundown. Fletcher, eventually forced to dash from third toward home, was tagged out at the plate in a collision with catcher Rick Dempsey.
So, the White Sox, instead of having one out with the score tied and runners at second and third, had two out with men on the corners.
Chicago Manager Tony LaRussa said, "That happens maybe three or four times a year. But you don't see it happen too many times with the bases loaded. Nobody tried to get out of the way more than the ump. It was a tough night."
Welke, showing a large welt on his right hip, said, "I had no chance (to get out of the way). It's the first time something like that has happened to me."
Certainly, the Orioles didn't mind, especially Dixon, who probably would have come out in favor of reliever Nate Snell had the tying run scored. But Altobelli wanted to leave Dixon in as long as the score was 2-1. He allowed Dixon to stay and face veteran left-hander Oscar Gamble, who struck out on a great breaking pitch.
"He's not the easiest guy in the world to pitch to, much less strike out," Altobelli said.
With the Orioles out of that jam, Altobelli told Dixon, "Nice job," and handed the ball to Aase. Dauer gave Aase an insurance run in the seventh with a homer into the left field bleachers to start the inning.
On Tuesday night, Dauer -- an eight-year veteran who is about to become baseball's all-time fielding percentage leader for second basemen -- had been booed by the home fans after he struck out and hit into a double play in Baltimore's 9-7 victory over Chicago.
Dauer had two hits and drove in three runs following the booing Tuesday. His three hits tonight boosted his batting average to .231 and may have helped his chances of remaining an Oriole. It is no secret that Baltimore has been interested in acquiring Seattle second baseman Jack Perconte.
When asked if Dauer's improved performance might have helped him stick around, Orioles General Manager Hank Peters said "Oh, sure. The more you do, the better lock you get on what you've got."
Dauer said he wasn't listening to the boos or the trade talk. "I have no control of what anybody will do," he said. "At 7:35, (I'm) the one playing second base until the game is over. I've been through a lot worse than this.
"I was struggling, doing badly. But nobody in here (the clubhouse) pointed fingers at me. I knew, sooner or later, I'd come around.
"I was in a big hole. But the bottom line is if I'm in the lineup, I've gotta help the team whatever way I can. I don't really hear the booing. Fans can do whatever they want. It never got me down. I knew the only way to stop all the talk was to do the job."
Dauer certainly has done that the last two games, especially tonight against Burns, a pitcher Dauer said he couldn't remember getting a hit off in the last two years.
Dauer and Ripken also made several fielding plays that helped Dixon and Aase. In the third, Ripken went behind second base to rob Fletcher of what would have been a run-scoring single. In the eighth, Dauer was several steps into the right field grass when he threw to Aase to retire Harold Baines, whose league-high hitting streak of 14 games ended. He went zero for four.
Even though the season is young, the Orioles (13-7) are talking about the importance of a good start.
"Every time we get off to a good start, we seem to have a good season," Ripken said. "We were taken out of the race early last year by Detroit. And it's given everybody in here a little more incentive this year."