Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Last night's anticipated duel between the two top winners in baseball - New York's Ron Guidry and Baltimore's Mike Flanagan - turned into frightening slugfest, instead.
Guidry, the winning pitcher in the Yanks' 5-4, 16-hit victory, left the game in severe pain after being clobbered in the left ankle by a bat accidentally flung by Ken Singleton.
As Singleton fanned to end the seventh inning, his Louisville Slugger slipped from his hand and hissed toward baseball's hottest hurier like a knee-high scythe.
The southpaw called "Louisiana Lightning," whose whole pro career has been unusually injury-free, tried to leap-frog the bat. Instead, Guidry did a flip in midair, landed on his head and shoulder, and rolled on the grass in pain.
Just as a stretcher arrived for the fallen Guidry (with almost the entire Yankee team around him), the skinny smoke-thrower with the phenomenal 19-2 record got to his feet and hobbled to the clubhouse.
"Ron was in pain and he was mighty scared," said New York Manager Bob Lemon after the game. "So were we all. But it looks like it's just a bruise."
Guidry, who was hit hard all night, allowing homers to Doug DeCinces and Rick Dempsey, was taken to Memorial Hospital, where X-rays were negative.
Guidry was the third visiting pitcher in four games to leave the Memorial Stadium mound after being felled by an Oriole ball, bat or body. Rick Dempsey KO'ed Seattle's Rick Honeycutt with a liner on Sunday and Oak land's Mike Norris was in a two-car wreck with Rich Dauer Monday night.
"Is that a record?" asked the wry Lemon.
Guildry wasn't the only lambasted pitcher. Flanagan, who is either exceptionally strong, or amazingly vulnerable, gave up a season-high 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Flanagan, a bulldog lefty, has had a split personality all season. In his six previous bad starts he has lasted only 16 innings with a catastrophic 18.36 ERA and an 0-6 record. In his other 26 starts, Flanagan has a 17-5 record and a 2.73 ERA.
"You can tell in a hurry with Mike," said O's Manager Earl Weaver, steamed after seeing the Birds' eight-game winning streak snapped. "I may have left him in one batter too long and cost us a run."
Almost every Yank run will give the Birds nightmares. In the first inning, Reggie Jackson's towering two-out pop-up could have been caught by any one of six players. None touched it. DeClinces' frenzied "I-can't-see-it-in-the-lights" arm-waving was universally interpreted as a gesture meant to convey. "Get outta my way. It's all mine."
As the ball plopped at the base of the mound, Willie Randolph trotted home from third.
Jackson was the game's other bizarre casually. "Somebody hit me in the head with a rock, feel that," said Jackson, massaging a large knot on his head.
A search of right field by the authorities to collect the thrown weapon as evidence was fruitless.
This was one of the season's better see-saw games. The Yanks took a quick 2-0 lead, usually more than enough for Guidlry with his 1.88 ERA and 207 strikeouts.
However, Eddie Murray, second in the AL in total bases (252), bounced a bloop double to right off the chalk stripe and Rick Dempsey poked a single to center - the first of his three hits off Guidry.
In the third, after a Singleton single, DeClines - the one hitter in baseball who seems to own Guidry - blasted a 3-2 pitch far over the left-field fence to put the O's ahead, 3-2. Before the game, DeCinces had said, "I beat Guidry with a two-run homer last time Mike (Flanagon) pitched against him (2-1), and I got a feeling I'm going to do it again.
"It's a nice feeling to step the plate with confidence against the best pitcher in baseball," said DeCinces. "But how come I can't hit (Goose) Gossage with a tennis racket?"
The mighty Gossage with two perfect Goose eggs, last night picked up his 20th save - most in the AL.
The Yanks, winners of six in a row and 24-11 under Lemon, KOed Flanagan in the fifth with Lou Pintella's RBI double and Nettles' subsequent single.
"Maybe I shouldn't have let Mike pitch to Nettles," growled Weaver, mentally kicking himself. "I talked myself into it even though I know it was wrong."
Dempsey's sixth-inning blast off the left-field foul pole took Flanagan off the hook with a 4-4 tie and put reliever Tippy Martines on it.
The subtlest of strategic backfires led to N.Y.'s final, winning run. With a man on first and one out in the seventh, Eddie Murray chose to hold the slow Piniella on first with lefty Chris Chambliss at bat.
"It's tough decision whether to hold him, or play behind the runner," said Weaver. "But Piniella is slow."
Chambliss' harmless-looking Baltimore chop tipped off the top of the leaping Murray's glove, sending Piniella to third where he scored on Johnson's single to center.
"Two inches lower and that grounder is a double-play ball," fumed Weaver.
However, when this evening of chalk-line doubles, foul-pole homers and untouched popups was over, only one close call was on every players' lips.
"I'm glad to hear that Guidry's ankle isn't broken," said Singleton, who was the first distressed person to race to the mound. "A great season shouldn't end like that."
Just as relieved were 25 Yankees and one wrinkled Lemon.