The Oakland A's pulled off a triple play in the third inning and it proved to be the key factor that derailed the Baltimore Oriole express tongiht, 5-3, at Memorial Stadium.
Baltimore appeared to have blown its offensive bankroll after that, managing only two hits in the final six innings as the Orioles saw a six-game win streak ended.
"The triple play definitely turned it around," said Oakland right-hander Rick Langford, who scattered seven hits en route to his first victory of the season against four losses.
"It determined whether I stayed in the game," Langford said. "Afterward, I was more aggressive and confident. The Orioles had already gotten to me for five hits and three runs. One more single and I was gone."
But the Birds got only three more runners on base for the remainder of the game to guarantee only their second setback in the last 17 outings. Oakland, currently in sixth place and 8 1/2 games back of West Division leader Minnesota, was the last previous team to beat Baltimore.
Triple play was set up after leadoff batter Ken Singleton walked and reached second on Eddie Murray's single to left field. Gary Roenicke then socked Langford's second pitch right at third-baseman Wayne Gross. Gross nabbed the ball on the second hop, toed the bag and whipped the ball to second-baseman Mickey Klutts. Klutts' relay to first got Roenicke by two steps.
That ended Baltimore's last real scoring threat, and kept the score knotted at 3-3 until the top of the seventh.
Gross led off with a walk against Tippy Martinez, who had come in to relieve Oriole starter Steve Stone in the second inning. After Dave Revering fanned, shortstop Mario Guerrero socked a double to right field to put Gross on third.
Designated hitter Mitch Page then hit a ground ball straight at the first baseman, Murray. Murray fielded it cleanly but seemed to hesitate while he pumped the ball before throwing it to home plate. Rick Dempsey's tag attempt was for naught as Gross slid by while grazing the tip of home plate with his left hand.
That chased Martines, who otherwise pitched well as he struck out seven during his 4 2/3 inning stint. Tim Stoddard came on to retire Jeff Newman on a fly ball but left fielder Derek Bryant got to Stoddard for a single to left to score Guerrero with the game's final run.
Baltimore, which has lost to the A's only three times in the last 24 meetings-albeit suffering two of the defeats at Langford's hands-had its last glimmer of hope darkened thanks to a double play on Dempsey's seventhinning shot to shortstop. That made it two outs and the Birds went down in succession on their final seven at-bats.
"The A's have a history of being a strange club," said Langford. "People have recently been overlooking us. We came here and heard nothing on the radio except, 'If the Orioles want to stay in first place, they have to beat weak clubs like Oakland.' That kind of thing gets to us." Langford snapped a personal seven-game losing streak.
The visitiors instead got to Baltimore for their first three runs early on. Revering's first-inning single scored center filder Larry Murray. In the second, catcher Jeff Newman - fortunate to still be in the game - led off with his third home run of the season.
Newman had stopped Singleton's foul tip with his Adam's apple in the first inning and writhed on the ground for a few desperate minutes before continuing his stint.
"I couldn't breathe there for a second," Newman said. "I felt for my Adam's apple and couldn't find it."
The catcher then returned the compliment by going for Baltimore's jugular with his shot over the left-field fence that came off "either as fast ball that Martinez took something off of, or s slider that didn't slide," according to Newman.
The A's added their second run of the inning when Murray's two-out throwing error allowed Miguel Dilone to make 3-3.
Baltimore, which fell percentage points behind Boston in the Oriole flirtation with American League East's first place, got its runs on first-inning run-scoring doubles by Murray, who hit safely in his 18th straight game, and Roenicickee, plus a second-inning double by Al Bumbry to score Dempsey. CAPTION: Picture 1, After Wayne Gross takes Gary Roenicke's grounder and forces Ken Singleton at third, Mickey Klutts retires Eddie Murray at second; Picture 2, relays to first baseman Dave Revering to complete A's triple play; Picture 3, Gross shows glee. Photo by Richard Darcey-The Washington Post