In a few lucky cities, September is the month of pennant races, of nervous scoreboard watching and endless postseason positioning. But in the rest of the baseball world, September is the month of walks, of minor-league call-ups and flamed-out young pitchers taking the mound.
The Baltimore Orioles' 10th straight victory, a 6-3 decision over the Anaheim Angels in front of 36,531 at Edison International Field, was nothing to be especially proud of. But it gave the Orioles their longest winning streak in more than six years.
It also makes their stated second-half goal of reaching .500 by the end of the season appear more plausible, though still unlikely. At 71-76, the Orioles would need to 10-5 over the season's final 15 games -- the last 14 of which are against teams in the playoff race -- to avoid their second straight losing season.
The Orioles won despite collecting only two hits through the first seven innings. Cal Ripken went 0 for 5 and still needs 13 hits to reach 3,000. Albert Belle went 0 for 4, snapping his hitting streak at 15 games.
Maximizing the eight walks issued by Angels pitchers, the Orioles scored their first four runs on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, a sacrifice fly and a pair of RBI groundouts, before Brady Anderson drove in a run with a single in the eighth and B.J. Surhoff crushed a solo homer in the ninth.
Orioles starter Sidney Ponson (12-11) walked four batters over six-plus innings, but won for the first time since Aug. 10, a span of seven starts.
The game opened with twin displays of unfocused pitching by the two young opposing starters. Angels rookie Brian Cooper (1-1), making his third major league start, walked the game's first three batters, and the Orioles scored two runs without the benefit of a hit when Belle was hit on the right forearm, and Jeff Conine hit a sacrifice fly.
Ponson, who entered the game with an 0-4 record and 6.44 earned run average in his last six starts, nearly matched Cooper's dubious achievement in the bottom half of the first, immediately loading the bases with nobody out on a double, a walk and a single. Like Cooper, Ponson then plunked the next batter, forcing in a run. But Ponson got out of the inning with three quick outs.
Cooper flamed out in the sixth inning, leaving after issuing consecutive one-out walks to Conine and Calvin Pickering. But Ponson settled down after his shaky start to pitch into the seventh inning, before a leadoff triple by Darrin Erstad off the head of Anderson in center field ended his night.
Erstad came home on Mo Vaughn's single off Orioles left-hander Jesse Orosco, pulling the Angels to within 4-3. But Orioles rookie right-hander Gabe Molina -- after walking the first batter he faced -- got out of the inning by striking out Garret Anderson and getting Todd Greene to pop up.
Orioles Notes: Left-handed pitcher Doug Johns has had "a reoccurrence of the condition that caused his insomnia a year ago," according to General Manager Frank Wren, and remained in Baltimore to receive treatment. Wren characterized the problem as being "of a personal nature" and declined to comment further.
Johns, 31, was forced to go on the disabled list in May 1998 for insomnia, and has been on medication since. On April 5 of this year, he was arrested for possession of marijuana. . . .
Ripken said today he would not want to sit out a road game for the purpose of reaching the 3,000-hit plateau during the Orioles' season-ending, six-game homestand.
"I'd love to be able to do it at home," Ripken said. "But it's not something you really can force. It would be against how I feel you should play the game. It feels foreign to me. I feel you should play as hard as you can and try to get as many hits as you can. . . . If I feel good, I want to play as much as I can." . . .
A second-inning groundout ended Charles Johnson's streak of consecutive hits at nine, one short of Ken Singleton's team record set in 1981. It was the first time Johnson had been retired since Monday.