The baltimore Orioles weren't sure exactly what they had just seen. Manager Earl weaver said it seemed at times as if Ferguson Jenkins Wasn't throwing any strikes. But Ken Singleton said the key for Jenkins tonight was that he kept the ball over the plate.
No doubt, Jenkins was a mystery to the Orioles, just as Steve Comer has been the previous night. Jenkins, the 35-year-old right-hander who used to win 20 games perenially, delivered a one-hit masterpiece in pitching the Rangers to their second straight shutout of the Orioles, 4-0.
The meant Baltimore has failed to score in 19 consecutive innings and two straight games
Former Ranger John Lowenstein got Baltimore's only hit, ripping a 3-2 fast ball to right leading off the fifth. After that Jenkins retired 14 straight batters before issuing a walk to Singleton with two out in the ninth. Jenkins retired Gary Roenicke on a come-backer to the mound to complete the 10th victory in 11 games for the American League west leaders.
"I've had the feeling about three times after warming up that I might pitch a no-hitter and tonight was one of them," Jenkins said. "I told myself it I could get past the first six hitters, maybe this would be it. It almost happened. . . ."
Jenkins came very close to registering his first no-hitter, nearly striking out Lowenstein on a 2-2 changeup the pitch before the hit. The 14-year veteran settled for his 46th career shutout -- and his 2, 700th strikeout along the way.
"Richie [plate umpire Garcia] had a wide strike zone," Weaver said, "but we weren't doing anything. We were swinging at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. This lump was bound to happen. We're not going to play .690 baseball al season. The question is how long it will last."
Jenkins walked only two and struck out 10 to raise his career strikeout total to 2,702. He fanned Doug DeCinces leading off the eighth for No. 2,700 and received the ball and a standing ovation from the Arlington Stadium crowd of 27,981.
Only once did an Oriole runner reach second base. In the second inning Eddie Murray drew a one-out walk and Lowenstein, after hitting into a force play, stole second. He was stranded when DeCinces grounded to first.
"That was the finest game I've ever seen Fergie pitch." said." said Lowenstein, who said his hit came off an inside fast ball. "He hit the black [edges of the plate] with everything."
Added Singleton, a strikeout victim twice in three at-bats, "When he missed he didn't miss by much and when he hit the plate he didn't hit it by much. His control was excellent."
It was the first tome in a 30-game span Baltimore had suffered back-to-back losses. The Orioles started their 12-game road trip with 22 victories in 25 games, including a four-game winning streak. And they boasted a six-game road winning streak [june 15-20].
While Comer and Jenkins baffled the Orioles with off-speed pitching in the first two games of the three game series, Jim Sundberg provided the hitting in both games.
Back in the lineup after spending two days in the hospital last week as a result of a beaning against California, Sundberg stroked a two-run double in the second inning tonight, just as he did the previous evening. And both nights he drove in the same runners. Richie Zisk and John Grubb.
Zisk and Grubb each singled off loser Steve Stone with two out in the second. Lowenstein, playing right field, tried to thorw out Zisk at third on Grubbs' hit. But the peg drew DeCinces way off the bag and allowed Grubb to move to second. Lowenstein was charged with an error. Sundberg delivered the runners by pulling a Stone pitch past DeCinces and down the left-field line for a 2-0 Texas lead.