Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Few things inspire a team more than a crucial, brillant play from the club's weakest link. Case in point: Baltimore's 3-2 victory over Kansas City last night, catalyzed by Pat Kelly peg to the plate.
No link in the Orioles chain is flimsier than Kelly's old, injured and ragged throwing arm.
When Kansas City's Darrell Porter lofted a modest fly to left in the sixth inning, the Royals' pete LaCock tagged up at third base contemptuously and headed home, confident that Kelly's throw would be weak, off target or both.
That would make the score 3-0 K.C.'s way. The Birds, losers of their previous five games, had not scored in 22 straight innings. The rest would be easy.
But Kelly's one-hop throw was perfect. Catcher Rick Dempsey waited at home with the ball and stood his ground as LaCock blasted him, shin guards over teakettle. "Yer out," said umpire Terry Cooney.
"That turned the worm," said Kelly's buddy, Lee May, who singled home the winning run, off Al Hrabosky, in the bottom of the eighth to give Jim Palmer his 14th win.
No sooner had Kelly gunned down LaCock than the Bird's broke their scoreless drought. Rich Dauer smacked a two-out, sixth-inning single off Doug Bird and steady Ken Singleton blasted his 15th homer to tie the game, 2-2.
"We needed my play," Kelly said proudly. "We needed some emotion and enthusiasm. We were in a spot where it's so easy to lie down and die.
"I try to save one good throw for when I need it. Since my shoulder was operated on (several years ago), that's about all it's got," said Kelly. "I gave that one all I had."
If Kelly, once proud of his arm, vindicated his aged wing, showing that "it's still respectable," two other Orioles bounced back from embarrassing performances the night before.
Singleton had misplayed a fly ball that broke up Scott McGregor's perfect game after 20 outs, and Eddie Murray ended the 2-0 defeat by being thrown out trying to steal third with his term two runs down: a classic of bonehead baserunning.
Singleton, whose 410 on-base percentage is the second best in the majors, doubled in the first and homered in the sixth. But it was his walk - No. 67 of the year - that turned this game.
K.C. Manager Whitey Herzog had booked Bird with two out, none on and a 2-0 count on Singleton in the eighth, bringing in The Mad Hungarian, Hrabosky.
Since Singleton had homered on the previous 2-0 pitch he had seen from the Bird, the unusual strategy seemed smart. But Singleton battled Hrabosky for a 3-2 pitch pass. Ironically, the walk was charged to Bird and cost him the defeat, though Hrabosky threw all the bum pitches.
Hrabosky, stomping around the mound in his usual snit, challenged Murray with fast balls on the fists. Murray fought off the Mad one's best jammer, dumping a handle hit into short center, pinch runner Carlos Lopez wheeling to third.
May, the consumate first-pitch, fast-ball hitter, stepped to the plate. The wig-wagging, chomping at the bit May and the furious, glove-pounding Hungarian glared at each other. One pitch would tell the tale.
Hrabosky got smart, maybe too smart, going to his second-best pitch, the knee-high curve.
The battle was a standoff, May hitting a routine grounder up the middle. But the Royals were in their May shift and shortstop Fred Patek never had a chance at the bouncing game-winner.