The Baltimore Orioles delivered a message written in green paint to the Boston Red Sox here tonight: we aren't the weaklings of the past.
The O's crashed 15 hits, including six for extra bases, as they came from behind to thump the Sox, 10-6, in Fenway Park before 27,569 fans on a balmy evening filled with the crackling sound of line drives.
In batting practice, the O's filled the air with the sound of playful cheers, as they yelled, "Paint, paint . . ." every time they crashed a ball off the Green Monster in left field. In the game, they rattled the tin five times as they moved back past the Sox into the American League's East Division lead by a half game.
"We had a little fun out there tonight," said Ken Singleton, who had three hits, two of them doubles. "We might have proved a little something, coming back with 10 runs after losing a tough 3-2 game in extra innings the night before."
The Orioles of the recent past might wilted when Carl Yastrezemski clubbed his 390th career homer, a 420-feet three-run blast into the center field bleachers for a 4-2 lead in the third inning.
But the Birds, wo have outscored their opponents, 146-66, in winning 20 of their last 24 games, answered with two runs in the fourth and a decisive six-run fifth as they battered Steve Renko, Andy Hassler and Jim Wright in rapid succession.
The game's leading sidelight came in the seventh after Rick Burleson was ejected for arguing a called third strike. Sox slugger Jim Rice charged the plate from the dugout and accidentally knocked home plate ump Lester Pratt on his back with a two-handed push.
Pratt did not eject Rice, even patting the league MVP on the shoulder to show there were no hard feelings. "It was unintentional," explained Pratt. "We just collided in the confusion."
"Nothing, zip, zero. I'm saying nothin'," responded the typically affable Rice. "Anybody who asks me anything else may find himself jacked up in that trash basket.
"I never touched the umpire."
Several replays showed that Pratt, angry after being bumped by Burleson, spun to follow the feisty Sox shortstop. Just as he spun, Rice, racing forward, met him face-to-face. Rice fired out both hands and caught Pratt full in the chest, flipping him backward as though poleaxed.
"Rice wiped him out just like a pulling guard (in football)," said Singleton. "There might be a couple of suspensions in there (for Burleson and Rice)," said Singleton, thinking wishfully.
The O's middle-inning uprisings were the difference as all 10 runs came across in three consecutive innings.
Singleton doubled home a pair in the third. Rich Dauer and Dave Skaggs each had RBI singles with two strikes in the fourth.
In the fifth, the Birds sent 10 men to the plate. The key came with two out and the sacks jammed, Baltimore ahead, 5-4, thanks to Lee May's RBI single.
Wright, who had already fanned two of the three men he had faced, committed the egregious error of walking feeble ninth hitter Dave Skaggs to force home a run.
Such a crime merited instant punishment.It was delivered by Al Bumbry, who banged Wright's next pitch high off The Wall for a two-run double. As if Wright had not suffered enough, Mark Belanger, hitting .145, then worked the count to 3-2 and dumped a humpback two-run single to center to finish the O's scoring.
O's Manager Earl Weaver was delighted because he has been harping all week on the similarity between this year and last when Baltimore, on a 20-of-23 tear, came here to lose three straight and start an eight-game losing streak.
"So much for that theory," said Weaver. "I been thinkin' about it since last night. It's just one more example of how much better a club we've got now."
Another huge example is 6-foot-8 Tim Stoddard, the relief pitcher who throws an extremely small baseball.
In his final three innings, mopping up for shaky winner Dennis Martinez, who struggled through six innings, Stoddard fanned six Sox, following each of them back to the dugout with a marvelous baleful stare.
In the seventh, with a man on second, Stoddard renewed acquaintances. On three pitches he blew away Rice, the glared him back to the dugout. For Yastrzemski, Stoddard needed four pitches for his inning-ending strikeouts.