Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The Baltimore Orioles booted bunts, tried to kill each other in the outfield, let liners skip past them as runners scored and generally played like nine Mr. Magoos last night.
Naturally, they thumped the California Angels, 5-2, in what was the easiest victory of an improbable winning streak that has reached 13 games.
Talk about your bad omens for a streaking team trying for the superstitious 13th.
On the first two plays nights of the night, Gold Glove Winner Jim Palmer tried to tie himself into a human pretzel while flubbing consecutive bunts. On the second bunt Palmer fell on his face, knocked his hat off, pulled a muscle in his chest and looked at the ball as if thinking about biting it.
"I didn't even think I had a muscle in my chest," a grinning Palmer cracked after his breeze of a six-hitter, his sixth straight win in a 9-4 season.
Magic is definitely with the Orioles. With those two bunters on base, Palmer watched Lyman Bostock and Don Baylor try to knock over his outfielders with liners, and in between Joe Rudi tapped out on an accidential, checked swing.
From the instant of that scoreless first-inning escape, the Orioles seemed to know they would be winners of their 15th of 16 games and move within one of the club record 14 straight.
By the third inning they had built a 5-0 lead over surprise southpaw starter Ken Brett and the rest was an Oriole lark, thanks to Palmer.
How are things going for the Birds? Nolan Ryan, who was slated to pitch for California, pulled a leg muscle the evening before jogging in the Boston outfield.
"Some of us think he pulled his Jimus Palmera muscle," said one Oriole coach. "He's only pitched against Jimmy twice in his life."
If Ryan has wisely avoided Palmer in the past, he was dounly wise to do so last night. Palmer, current ERA 1.86, ran his string to one earned run yielded in 57 innings before Californis scored twice in a fluky seventh.
If the Oroles' Carlos Lopez were a natural outfielder and not a human hand grenade when he plays center, Palmer might have pitched his fifth shutout in his last six starts.
With two out and two on - via a bloop hit and a walk - Bostock hit a liner to center. Had Lopez not been playing prohibitively deep out of native caution. had Lopez not taken his first step backward, Lopez might not have had to dive nose first at the last second to try for a shoestring grab.
No one in the 21,339 assembled at Memorial Stadium was surprised when the ball skipped past him untouched as two runs scored - one tainted but earned, one all Lopez.
Lopez had already had two near-misses at full-speed collisions with Ken Singleton. Both times right fielder Singleton caught the ball as Lopez whisked by beneath him, looking up and wondering where the ball went."
"Carlos is fast and has a great arm." said Singleton. "But you gotta keep an eye on him. He ain't gonna get me without a fight."
After the first near crash the two shook hands. Just simple pilot error. "Nothing got hurt," allowed Singleton, who in the outfield looks at Lopez as if he ticks, "except feelings."
Palmer was so happy to get five runs that he made fun of no one but himself. After getting his last five wins by scores of 2-1, 1-0, 3-0, 1-0 and 1-0, those five runs looked enormous.
"I switched gloves to the company that gives the Gold Glove Award," Palmer said sheepishly. "It shags fly balls great. Haven't missed one all year.But it's disconcerting to get out there and find out it won't pick up bunts. I looked like Rudy May out there."
Only those who have witnessed former Oriole Rudy May, the fielder, in action will ever appreciate that remark.
Winning on nights when they field like comedians, getting to face a career loser, Brett, instead of the Ryan Express - the O's have come to expect such things.
Last night alone:
Billy Smith's first career home run as a righty struck th foul pole.
A two-out bases-loaded grounder by Lopez deflected off third baseman Ron Jackson's glove into left field for two runs. If Jackson had missed it entirely, only one run would have scored.
Rich Dauer, forced into lineup despite a .177 average by Doug De-Cinces' flu, had his second straight three-hit night. Two of his singles moved Mark Belanger from first to third, whence he scored on gentle groundouts by Singleton.
That makes five Oriole runs, all at least a touch Pixlated.
In the 13-game streak Baltimore has outscored foes by a modest 56-32, including seven one-run victories and another extra-inning triumph. The O's have won 1-0 and 10-9 on consecutive days. An Oakland rookie named Mike Morgan, only days out of high school, faced them, but Nolan Ryan called in sick.