What the Texas Rangers had tonight, to recall the movie "Cool Hand Luke," was a failure to communicate.
After the Baltimore Orioles stopped the Rangers, 6-1, Texas manager Billy Hunter called catcher Jim Sundberg and starting pitcher Gaylord Perry into his office for 10 minutes of private conversation.
"We were just talking about the workings of the game," said Hunter. "Evidently there was a discrepancy betwen the pitcher and catcher about the calls."
Apparently Perry and Sundberg had words on the bench about Sundberg's selection of pitches.
"I'd just as soon pass it by," said Perry, who took the loss. "Let's say I didn't get the pitches where I should have."
Said Sundberg; "It was a case of wanting to win. We talked about what he was throwing. That's all it was and we got it straightened out."
The Orioles have won 12 of their last 14. The Rangers, stymied by Ross Grimsley's seven-hitter, have lost two in a row after winning six straight.
Grimsley struck out only one, but pitched shutout ball after the first inning.
"I was using a changeup off of a changeup and they couldn't believe it," Grimsley said. "That makes the fast ball look faster, although I don't throw that hard, particularly tonight."
Arlington's radar gun timed his fastest pitch tonight at 82 miles per hour.
At fist it appeared the Orioles were going to shell Perry, the North Carolina peanut farmer.
Center fielder Tom Shopay greeted Perry with a ringing single to right and was sacrificed to second. Pat Kelly hit a ground ball into the hole at second that a diving Bump Wills snagged . . . and promptly threw into the Ranger dugout. Shopay scored and Kelly trotted to second.
Ken Singleton sliced a double into left to score Kelly before Perry collected the last two outs.
Perry has been pitching well lately. He came in having allowed only three earned runs in his last four games and nine in his previous seven starts. He had won seven of 10 decisions.
And he settled down, after Texas scored a run in the bottom of the first, to slam on the brakes until the Orioles pushed across a run in the sixth.
That came after Singleton and Eddie Murray opened with back-to-back singles. Singleton went to third as Murray was forced at second. Doug DeCinces walked to load the bases with one out, but Baltimore managed only one run.
It came when pinch-hitter Tony Muser tapped a high hopper in front of the plate, Perry, anxious to keep Texas within striking range, elected to try to make a play at the plate but Singleton scored easily.
Only a perfect throw to the plate after rightfield Ken Henderson caught Dave Skaggs' fly ball held the Orioles to one run.
Baltimore took command in the top of the seventh, scoring three times to make it 6-1.
Billy, Smith, a San Antonio resident celebrating his 24th birthday today, singled and was sacrificed to second. Pinch-hitter Elliott Maddox was walked intentionally. Eddie Murray singled to left to score Smith, then went all the way to third as the ball bounced past Ranger left fielder Claudell Washington Maddox scroed ahead of him.
Perry struck out Lee May, but DeCinces slapped a base hit up the middle to score the run. Hunter reached for the ball and Perry reached for the Lifebuoy. Adrian Devine came in to strike out Mark Belanger and end the inning.
A couple things that might have been expected didn't happen. Although Hunter promised he'd have the Rangers bunting with Grimsley starting "He's a poor fielder. He can't help it. I guarantee you there will be at least one time he's supposed to be at first that he won't be," the former Oriole third base coach said before the game, Texas didn't try the tactic often.