The Baltimore Orioles made the slumping Kansas City Royals feel at home tonight, putting up little offensive resistance in a 4-1 defeat in the first game of a doubleheader.
The Royals, losers of 12 of 17 before tonight, got 7 1/3 crafty innings from Paul Solittoriff, followed by 1 1/3 frames from fastballer Mark Littell and final-out help from Larry Gura.
The Oriole starter, Ross Grimsley, now 4-3, battled the full nine innings, keeping the Birds in range, but his teammates' bats were no match for six soubles and a triple by the Royals.
Three times Al Cowens came to bat against Grimsley with a man on third and one out and each time he found a way to score him - once with a sacrifice fly, once with a ground out and once with a high-hop double.
Grimsley, who already has twice as many complete games this year as last (4 to 2), had his customary trouble in the first inning. "Every game," he mutters, shaking his head at the syndrome, but every game he is back working out of a hole.
Tonight, Rich Duaer, the second baseman with the batting average of twenty-six (.026), gave Grimsley a boost with a phenomenal dive, stop, rocevery and throw to get George Brett to start the game. But the next man, Hal McRae, rattled the chain fence in left center for a double.
Amos Otis followed with a routine line single to right center, but it suddenly became a triple when Ken Singleton was caught flatfooted by a slightly bad first hop that he could only wave at with his bare hand.
Singleton's failure to touch the ball in any way - even to slow it and hold Otis to a double - cost a run as Al Cowens lofted a sacrifice fly to center for a 2-0 lead.
The Orioles, who have prospered by playing stingy, percentage baseball to support their pitchers, managed a run in the second. Eddie Murray singled and Brooks Robinson, getting just his third start of the year, roped a double to left center, sending him to third. Dempsey bled a ground out to second that scored Murray, but Dauer meekly grounded to Splittorff to end the rally.
In the fourth, the Birds squandered a run, a luxury that a team with seven starters hitting .241 or lower tonight, cannot afford.
Rick Dempsey doubled to open the inning, but manager Earl Weaver decided to let Dauer hit rather than sacrifice. Weaver's generosity backfired as Dauer could not even advance the runner with a grounder to second. Bumbry then lined out on a ball that could have scored a man from third.
Brett started the sixth with the second of the evening's six Royals doubles to the left off Grimsley. Murray, who managed to look either lazy or confused on four of them, got a poor jump and never threatened the soft fly into the corner.
McRae gave himself up with a grounder to second to advance Brett and Cowens again cashed his man from third with one out with a ground out. McRae doubled (inches out of Murray's range) and was sacrificed to third in the eighth, but this time Cowens scored him with an honest hit, a double that bounced over Robinson's head at third.
The Orioles hit a half-dozen frozen ropes off Splittorff that found nothing but K.C. leather. Spittorff's curves got him as far as one out in the eighth, but singles by Belanger and Singleton brought on Littell, the Royals' bullpen heat to confront Lee May and Murray.
Littell's overhand fastballs struck out both, May on an indecisive checked swing and Murray flailing.
The ninth merely showed why the scrappy Orioles can never afford to get behind by more than a run in the late going. Walks to Tom Shopay, batting for Robinson (Oh, the ravages of time), and Pat Kelly "knocked out" Littell. But Gura retired Bumbry on a weak fly to give the first-place Birds only their eight defeat in 21 games this month.