The Baltimore Orioles bag of late-inning miracles was empty today and the scrappy young Detroit Tigers snapped the Birds' nine-game winning streak with a 6-4 victory at Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers' bullpen, which cost them both ends of Saturday's doubleheader, came through today, thanks to a stocky Mexican pitcher, who by his own admission, "No speak English."
Aurelio Lopez did his talking with a fast ball and slider. He came on in the seventh inning with the score tied at 4-4 and retired all nine batters he faced. He struck out five, including the side in the eighth.
The Tigers got the winning runs in the ninth. The big blow was a Rusty Staub triple.
Second baseman Dave Machemer, the No. 9 hitter in the order, opened the inning with a ground-rule double when his line drive to right field bounced into the seats.
Jerry Morales, attempting to sacrifice Machemer to third, laid down what appeared to be a good bunt to the third base side of the mound, but Oriole starter and loser Dennis Martinez came off the mound like a cat and threw out Machemer at third.
Then the reliable Staub, who later said he never hits well in Baltimore, lined his triple to right-center. Center fielder Al Bumbry appeared to take a bad angle in pursuit of the ball and it rolled to the fence. Ken Singleton ran it down, but Morales scored from first and Staub was on third.
Tippy Martinez then replaced Dennis Martinez and walked Steve Kemp. He gave up an RBI single to Jason Thompson before getting out of the inning.
A crowd of 41,200, celebrating the Orioles' silver anniversary in the American League, was undaunted, and rose en masse trying to spur the home team to another of what has become its common ninth-inning charges.
The four-game weekend series attracted 122,470 fans, the third-largest series draw in Baltimore history and the second-largest turnout for a three-day series.
Lopez, who weighs 225 pounds, stayed loose and easily retire pinch hitters John Lowenstein and Terry Crowley and Bumbry.
"At least I know now I can win a game in Baltimore," Detroit Manager Sparky Anderson said. "I still don't see how they (the Orioles) can keep battling back like they do. Twice we were ahead of them today and they came back. I don't know what it is about that team. I think Earl (Weaver) is the best manager in baseball, but no one's a super genius."
Lopez, who could not hold a four-run lead in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, made Anderson look like a genius of sorts today.
Anderson didn't hesitate to come back with the native of Tecamachalco, Puebla, Mexico, less than 20 hours later.
"(Aurelio) Rodriguez tells me he (Lopez) needs to pitch a lot to be real effective," Anderson said. "Well, he came to the right man, because I can crank an arm off. I love those guys who like to pitch."
Rodriguez, the Tiger third baseman who also is from Mexico, is Lopez's unofficial interpreter and confidant.
When Lopez was asked about his performance today, all he would say was, "I no speak English. Ask Parrish."
Parrish is Detroit catcher Lance Parrish.
"He can speak English, but you just can't understand him," Parrish said of Lopez. "This was probably one of his better outings. He was throwing the ball hard and having them chasing a few bad pitches."
The Tigers scored two runs in the third when Machemer singled to left and scored on Morales' double to left-center. Morales moved to third on a wild pitch and crossed the plate on Kemp's sacrifice fly.
The Orioles got those runs back in the fourth when Rich Dauer hit a two-run homer.
Detroit regained the lead in the fifth on a solo homer by Staub, but the Orioles came back to go ahead, 4-3, in the bottom of the inning.
A single by Ken Singleton (who had three hits), a wild pitch by starter Steve Baker, an intentional pass to Eddie Murray and a hit batsman (Garry Roenicke) loaded the bases for Lee May with two out. The Orioles' designated hitter jumped on the first pitch and blooped a single to left center to score two.
Detroit tied it a 4-4 in the seventh when Machemer led off with a single, Morales hit into a fielder's choice, Staub walked and Thompson lined an RBI single to left.
"Our mistakes came when we let the lower part of their Kemps and Staubs," Weaver said.
Dennis Martinez, the Orioles' most effective starter, was going for his 11th straight victor. He fell to 10-3.
In the Silver Anniversary celebration before the game, an old-timers game consisting of two teams of former Orioles thrilled the large crowd. Past stars like Frank and Brooks Robinson, Gus Triandos, Jim Gentile, Mike Cuellar and Don Buford took part.
The only runs of the game came on a two-run homer by Elrod Hendericks.
"Homers will do it for you every time," Weaver said. "Every time."