ARLINGTON, TEX., AUG. 2 -- For once, the moon and stars and oceans all aligned for 23-year-old Bobby Witt. He had the blazing fastball and backbreaking slider and decent change-up, and, for one night at least, got most of them in the strike zone.
The result was that he was just about unhittable, allowing five hits and striking out 11 in the longest outing of his career as the Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-2, before 15,597 at Arlington Stadium.
Never mind his six walks, Witt (5-5) was two outs away from his first career complete game when Jim Dwyer hit a two-run homer, which brought Dale Mohorcic in to finish.
Dwyer got three of the Orioles' five hits and, in throwing 155 pitches, Witt struck out every Oriole except rookie Bill Ripken.
When the game was over, the Orioles handed Witt and his 95-mph fastball their highest compliments.
Ray Knight said he had "the best stuff I've seen all year." Terry Kennedy went farther: "That's the best slider I've seen in three years. That's as hard as I've seen anyone throw in a long time. He gets you geared up for a two-strike fastball, then throws that slider that comes back across the plate. When he does that, you just take your bat back to the dugout."
This is the way the Rangers always knew Witt could pitch, and this is the kind of day they expected when they made him the third selection in the first round of the June 1985 draft. They sent him to the minor leagues for 11 games, and had him in the big leagues by opening day last season.
He hasn't been back down since, and the only question was when he could harness his talent. Last summer, he played an elevated game of catch, leading the league in both walks (143) and wild pitches (22), but also striking out 174 in 157 2/3 innings.
Tonight, Witt kept the Orioles from a three-game sweep and handed them only their fourth loss in 18 games. He got plenty of offense with Geno Petralli and Pete Incaviglia homering for two of the 10 hits off Mike Boddicker (7-5), who lost to the Rangers for the first time.
Still, after the game Witt sounded more like a loser than a winner. He has gone 45 starts without a complete game, and among all active major league pitchers, only Steve Bedrosian, when he was an Atlanta starter instead of a Philadelphia reliever, has had more starts without a complete game (46).
"I'm disappointed," Witt said. "We've got a five-run lead, and I can't get the last out. But we won, and that's the main thing. I felt good. The adrenalin was really flowing."
The good news for the Orioles is that Boddicker, despite allowing 10 hits and five runs in seven innings, pitched without pain in his lower back. He had missed his last turn because of back spasms, and the last time he did pitch, allowed five runs in 2 1/3 innings.
"The back was fine," Boddicker said. "I just wasn't very sharp. I got some fastballs up and had some sinkers that didn't sink. The pitch to Petralli stayed right in the middle of the plate. But this is part of not being able to do my work. The back doesn't hurt now, so I've just go to get back in some kind of groove."
The Rangers scored two runs in the second inning and three in the third off him. He would have needed to be just about perfect to beat Witt, who allowed only one Oriole to reach third base until Dwyer's homer.
Witt was awesome early, getting six strikeouts in the first three innings, including a record-tying four in the second when an error by catcher Mike Stanley gave him a chance for the extra one.
The Orioles did have runners in scoring position in the first, third and fifth innings, but Witt struck out Larry Sheets to end the first; struck out Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray to end the third; and got a grounder from Murray to end the fifth.
Meanwhile, Boddicker struggled. Petralli led off the third with a homer on a belt-high fastball. Jerry Browne, Scott Fletcher and Pete O'Brien followed with singles for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Incaviglia led off with his 21st homer. Oddibe McDowell singled and stole, and Boddicker walked Stanley. Petralli grounded out and Browne popped out, but Fletcher doubled to right for two runs and a 5-0 lead.
Witt walked Ken Gerhart with one out in the ninth. He threw Dwyer a first-pitch fastball, and Dwyer hit it over the right field wall.
A complete game for Witt, Texas Manager Bobby Valentine said, isn't "a priority as far as our game plan is concerned. We just need good games out of him, and he gave us one."
Dave Schmidt probably will miss his next start -- Friday versus Texas -- because of a sore right elbow. He first complained of tenderness last week in Cleveland, and with the Orioles now in a six-man rotation, dropping a pitcher isn't a problem. "I don't want to take a chance," Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said. "Right now, we're in a position where we can afford to." . . . The club flew to Milwaukee tonight, and has Monday off before beginning a three-game series there. . . . Witt became the 18th pitcher to have a four-strikeout inning, as Stanley lost the ball after Kennedy struck out. . . . Cal Ripken Jr. is in a none-for-18 slump, dipping to a season-low .261.