For two years, Ken Dixon has exasperated the Baltimore Orioles with both his good days and his bad ones, mainly because his good ones are so special.
Tonight was one of his good ones. He allowed five hits in 8 2/3 innings and struck out a career-high 13 as the Orioles got two RBI from Cal Ripken and beat the Chicago White Sox, 4-2, in front of 23,671 at Comiskey Park.
Dixon (8-7) got last-out help from Don Aase (23rd save), but that didn't diminish one of the best games of his young career, one that is a continuation of a streak in which he has allowed two earned runs in 26 innings.
"I didn't feel good at all in the bullpen," Dixon said. "I had a tough time loosening up and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks told me to keep throwing slowly until I was ready. When I went out there, I had a pitcher's sense. I sensed I was in command, but that doesn't always mean you'll get people out."
With a 91-mph fastball and a knee-buckling curveball, Dixon struck out every White Sox starter at least once except shortstop Ozzie Guillen. He got John Cangelosi, Ron Kittle, Julio Cruz and Joel Skinner twice each and struck out six in a row during a stretch in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
He was so in command that he retired 10 hitters in a row early in the game and nine in a row during the middle innings. He barely missed the Orioles' club record of 14 strikeouts (achieved by three pitchers, mostly recently Mike Boddicker in the 1983 playoffs).
"He pitched well," White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi said. "He pitched off his curveball or slider, if that's what you want to call it. That was his control pitch."
Dixon bailed out the Orioles (46-39) on a night when they appeared to have no business winning. They began this game with a lineup that didn't include Fred Lynn (given a night off), Eddie Murray (injured) or Larry Sheets (injured).
Those three players represent 34 home runs and 133 RBI for the Orioles, who were left with five players in the starting lineup hitting between .147 and .236, including .216-hitting John Shelby in the No. 3 spot.
So on this most unlikely of evenings, they won for the eighth time in 12 games and moved within nine games of first place in the American League East by banging out 13 hits off Chicago starter Floyd Bannister (5-5) and reliever Bill Dawley.
Ripken, who has shared the offensive load with Lynn in Murray's absence, took on a little more tonight, getting three hits, including his 13th homer.
In the last 15 games, Ripken has hit .441 with four doubles, five homers and 16 RBI, all at a time when the Orioles have been desperate for offense.
The rest of the game belonged to Dixon, who allowed base runners in only four innings. He finished strongly, allowing a bloop single to Guillen to lead off the ninth, then striking out Harold Baines and Greg Walker before Kittle looped a single to left.
That's when Weaver went for Aase, who had blown back-to-back save chances. He got out of this one, but only after allowing Jerry Hairston's RBI single.
"After pitching a game like that, I didn't want Dixon to lose it by hanging one pitch," Weaver said. "I've got a guy out there who can throw 93 mph, so I wanted him to do it."
Ripken's fourth homer in eight games gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the second inning, and they made it 2-0 off Bannister in the third.
Designated hitter Al Pardo led off that inning with a single -- his sixth hit in 12 at-bats -- and Rick Dempsey followed with a single. Mike Young bunted the runners to second and third, and Lee Lacy's sacrifice fly to right scored Pardo.
Dempsey went to third on the sacrifice fly, but stayed there as Shelby popped out to third baseman Tim Hulett.
The White Sox got their only run off Dixon in the fourth, when Baines got a one-out single and scored on Walker's triple. That made it 2-1, but with the tying run on third and one out, Dixon was outstanding, striking out Kittle and Hulett.
"On Kittle, I'm going for the strikeout," Dixon said. "I got him on a low slider. I didn't care about striking out Hulett. I was just trying to get out of the inning."
The Orioles made it 3-1 in the fifth when Dempsey got a two-out triple to center, a ball that Cangelosi spun about three directions on. Young followed with an RBI single to left.
They got Dixon a fourth run in the eighth when Lacy doubled to right, Shelby beat out an infield single and Ripken singled to left. In the last 15 games, Ripken has raised his average from .269 to .299, and appears to be in his annual August hot streak a few weeks early.
"I don't feel the need to do anything more with some guys out," he said. "The worst thing you can do is try to think you have to do everything yourself. I'm just in a hot stretch at a time when they happen to be out."
Saturday is the 18th anniversary of Earl Weaver's first game as Orioles manager . . . Lynn -- who had played nine straight games, including seven in a row on artificial turf -- was used as a pinch hitter in the ninth . . . Murray didn't start for a fifth straight game and didn't take batting practice . . . In the next seven days, the Orioles expect to bring Sheets and pitcher Storm Davis off the disabled list, and at that time will face a couple of difficult roster decisions. When Sheets returns, there's a strong possibility the Orioles will send second baseman Alan Wiggins to Class AAA Rochester, although Young (.236, five homers, 30 RBI) isn't safe, either. Pardo, who has gone six for 15 the last three games, may have removed himself from the endangered list.