The record-breaking Memorial Stadium crowd of 37,645 got to watch two sets of fireworks tonight: the previously-planned postgame show accompanied by some popular musical tracks and the spontaneous type generated by resurgent Baltimore Oriole bats.
Sparks flew off Oriole wood to the tune of 14 hits, five for extra bases -- as the hosts walloped the Kansas City Royals, 9-2. The victory enabled Baltimore to keep a four-game lead over the Boston Red Sox, 8-2 winners over Chicago earlier in the day.
Ken Singleton, who homered Friday, continued to pull himself out of a recent slump with three hits and two runs batted in. Seven other Oriole starters produced at least one hit as Baltimore equaled its total production for the previous four games.
"I wasn't smart enough to call off batting practice and the rain came and did it for me," said manager Earl Weaver. "But, as long as we're not hitting, we don't need batting practice. If we get 14 hits tomorrow when we don't get practice again (due to pregame festivities), I'll have to make a hard decision Monday."
The Orioles scored first, allowed the Royals to almost come back and finished strongly with runs in each of the final four innings to the delight of the crowd. The club set an all-time season home attendance mark of 1,266,484 (old record: 1,203,366) and has 18 dates remaining, plus two possible makeup games against New York, if necessary.
"We needed any win; any wins and many wins we can use," Weaver said. The Birds, 44-16 at Memorial Stadium, are only 5-5 on the current home stand and have lost four games in the standings to the Red Sox since Aug. 5.
Weaver was ejected by first base umpire Steve Palmero for the second time in three games, marking the feisty manager's eighth premature departure of the season.
This one was precipitated when Weaver joined shortstop Mark Belanger in a sixth-inning debate over an appealed strike call by Palmero on Belanger's checked-swing bunt attempt. Weaver was given the thumb while talking to another umpire near Palermo.
"I think I know what Palermo's problem is," Weaver offered. "About the fifth inning of every game he needs a diaper change. Or somebody to bring out a towel so he can dry himself behind the ears."
By that time the Orioles held a 4-2 lead. Rich Dauer drove in a second-inning run with Baltimore's third single of the stanza.
Gary Roenicke made it 2-0 when he launched his 19th home run to lead off the third inning. The outfielder now has nine hits against Royal pitching this season and seven have been round-trippers.
John Wathan sacrificed home Al Cowens in the top of the fourth to make it 2-1. Cowens had reached base with the first of his three singles and advanced to third on catcher Darrell Porter's fourth consecutive hit over a two-game span.
In the fifth, seven Orioles came to bat, four reached base and Rick Dempsey scored the third run for Baltimore on Singleton's base hit to left field. Benny Ayala, the only Oriole starter who failed to hit safely, launched a weak popup to end the inning with a trio of Orioles left on base.
Three straight singles off Orioles starter Scott McGregor to open the sixth produced KC's final run. Porter's single scored Amos Otis.
A double by Lee May, Rich Dauer's infield out to move him to third and Dempsey's sacrifice fly made it 4-2 in the sixth.
Dave Ford, who came on to relieve McGregor in the sixth to earn his second save, allowed only two Royal hits over the final 3 2/3 innings and retired the side in the seventh and ninth. McGregor stayed around long enough to notch his eighth victory against four losses.
The Birds' five runs off the same number of hits, two walks, two errors and a wild pitch in the final two innings was only so much icing on the cake. By then, the home team was thoroughly enjoying itself and its rediscovered prowess at the plate: light hitter Belanger (.173) tripled in the eighth for his second of the season; in the previous inning the Oriole slug trust of Roenicke, Singleton, Eddie Murray and DeCinces had powered consecutive singles.