The Detroit Tigers rocked Baltimore bullpen ace Tippy Martinez for two runs on four ninth-inning singles tonight to send the lame-hitting Orioles down to a 3-2 defeat.
The defeat was the fifth in the last seven games for the American League East champs. All seven of Baltimore's safeties were singles, as the Birds were unable to solve the smoke-ball throws from starter and winner Jack Morris (16-7) and reliever Aurelio Lopez, who notched his 21st save.
"I've been thinking about it (lack of hitting) recently," said Oriole right fielder Ken Singleton, who went zero for three and hit into an inning-ending double play. "It's tough to keep everything going. We had a long struggle and then ended the pennant race early.
"But that short rest before the playoffs start will do us good. We'll all be ready by then. We've come too far not to be ready."
Oriole Manager Earl Weaver is using these meaningless last few regular season contests to both give his bullpen work and to take a look at players called up from Rochester.
Weaver made eight substitutions, three of them pitchers, in the final four innings.
Martinez (10-3), proved to be Baltimore's undoing. After opening the ninth by getting Jerry Morales out on an outfield fly, Martinez yielded singles to Lance Parrish (three hits) and Alan Trammell to put runners on first and second.
Pinch hitter Len Jones dropped a bloop single in front of center fielder Al Bumbry, who retrieved the ball on one hop. But it still scored Parrish from second to tie the score at 2.
Oriole right fielder Mark Corey -- in for Singleton -- made a fine catch of Rick Peters' foul pop while falling into the box seats for the second out. His quick throw back to the infield froze the runners.
Ron LeFlore negated that good deed by blooping a Martinez offering into right field to score Trammell from second.
Lopez, a 90-mile-per-hour fast-baller, opened the bottom of the ninth by yielding a single to Lee May. Wayne Krenchicki's sacrifice bunt moved May to second, but Lopez gunned down pinch hitters Terry Crowley (looking) and Pat Kelly (swinging) to end the game.
"I remember in 1969 when we lost four of our last five after winning 108 games," Weaver said. "We were doing the same thing we're trying to do now: getting ready for the biggie. But you don't like it when you lose, ever. I can't get that empty feeling out of my stomach, going home having lost, 3-2."
The Orioles got their runs on a Morris wild pitch that scored Rick Dauer from third base in the third inning, and on John Lowenstein's sacrifice fly that drove in Corey in the sixth.
Weaver did see some things he liked. Tim Stoddard, coming back from a torn arm muscle, pitched relatively well during his one-inning stint.
"I'm getting back to the speed I was throwing at before," he said. "I had my normal stride and was putting the ball where I wanted it. I've just got to go a little almost every day for a bit, but that's up to Earl."
Weaver lamented that he was running out of games in which to work his bullpen. He wants Don Stanhouse, Sammy Stewart and Martinez to put in some more work before the playoffs start Oct. 3.
Oft-injured Jim Palmer, who worked two good innings of batting practice today, will start Friday against Cleveland to get ready to open the playoffs. Palmer had a disagreement with Weaver two days ago whether he should pitch relief this week.
"I gave Earl 17 reasons why I shouldn't," Palmer said.
Mike Flanagan, standing within earshot, compared clubhouse lawyer Palmer to a well-known income tax firm which is known for getting clients out of difficulty.
"Just call him H&R Palmer," Flanagan said.
In other American League games, Toronto scored five unearned runs in the sixth inning and beat host Boston, 5-3; Damasco Garcia drove in three runs in leading the host New York Yankees over Cleveland, 7-5; and Jim Kern improved his record to 13-5 pitching the Texas Rangers to a 5-3 win over the visiting Oakland A's.
In Milwaukee, Sixto Lezcano reached the 100 RBI plateau with a two-run double in the eighth inning, giving the Brewers a 7-6 victory over Seattle. The Chicago White Sox beat host Minnesota, 9-3, behind Claudell Washington, who had three hits and two RBI.