In the heat of a Lone Star summer night, baseball's hottest team ran into another streaking crew and found itself cooled off: Texas Rangers 2, Baltimore Orioles O.
The Orioles, winners in 22 of their last 25 games entering tonight's contest, met their match in Steve Comer. The 25-year-old right-hander blanked the Birds, 2-0, on seven hits tempered by four double plays in leading the Rangers to their ninth victory in 10 games.
"Comer just changed speeds well," Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver said. "He doesn't give up that many home runs [seven this year] and that's good pitching."
Comer's first major league start came against Baltimore last July 17 and he shut out the Orioles for nine innings before the Rangers won, 2-0, in 11. He beat the O's, 4-2, on June 1 this season with relief from Jim Kern. In 25 1/3 innings against the Orioles the past two years, Comer has yielded one run.
"I've pitched two excellent games in a row now [beating California last week]," Comer said. "I throw more changeups against Baltimore than most teams because any time you can keep their power hitters off stride you've got the edge. And any time you get that many double plays, it's got to help you."
The shutout was only the second suffered this year by the Orioles, last blanked by New York's Tommy John on April 12. The Yankee victory over Boston last night behind John preserved the Orioles' 5 1/2-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East.
It was an ominous begining to Baltimore's two-week, 12-game road trip running to the All-star break. The Orioles failed to take advantage of the six-hit pitching of their Dennis Martinez [10-5], who went the distance in taking is third straight loss after winning 10 consecutive decisions.
And could have picked up a game," he said. "We would like to have started with a win. Tomorrow night's going to be a big one. It's going to be a tough trip, especially if we don't start hitting. We need to come out of our hitting slump. We've been fortunate so far but it's going to start catching up with us."
The Orioles also hurt themselves tonight by gambling on the base paths and losing.
In the first inning, Kiko Garcia tried to score from third base on Ken Singleton's shallow pop fly to center but was throw out by John Grubb. After one-out singles in the third by Eddie Murray and Doug DeCinces put runners on first and second, Murray, hesitating momentarily on Lee May's fly to left, was doubled up at third on a strong throw from Billy Sample.
Sample also threw out Pat Kelly trying to stretch a single into a double to end the eighth.
The Rangers' other double plays came on May's ground ball to short after opening singles by Murray and DeCinces in the second and, fittingly, on DeCinces' grounder to third to end the game.
The Orioles received more bad news when designated hitter May, who came into the game batting 286 with 13 home runs, strained his right calf running out a ground ball in the seventh and was told he would have to miss three or four games.
The surprising Rangers, maintaining their slim lead over second-place California in the AL West, scored both runs in the second on one-out doubles by Richie Zisk and Jim Sundberg around a walk to Grubb.
Zisk, the high-priced free agent mired in a season-long slump that had him hitting 218 entering the game, drilled a line drive into the right-field corner. After Grubb's walk, Sundberg drove in both runners with his double into the left-center alley.
Sundberg also doubled in the fifth.