It felt like seven days in May. But when the 3 hour 18-minute and 183-pitch drama finially was over, the Orioles had survived the Minnesota Twins tonight, 8-6
It wasn't a pretty sight but it was the Orioles' fifth win in their last seven games.
"If it was a Monday night game on television, a lot of people would have turned it off before the end," said Ken Singleton.
Had they done so, they might not have believed when told later what happened. Through six innings, it appeared that Oriole magic was intact, that the Birds had found an easy victory up Mike Flanagan's left sleeve.
But the Twins, down 6-1 came back with three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth and the Orioles were forced to go back to their wand of for two more runs in the bottom of the eighth.
"We seem to make this game awful hard," said Mark Belanger, who went three for five and raised his average from .182 to .224. "We get a nice lead and end up making a ballgame of it.
"We end up on top a lot of the time but it seems like there's got to be a way to win easier."
It was mundane baeball, at best. But, said Manager Earl Weaver, "it's the team that doesn't mind playing 'em and winning that will be the one at the top at the end of the year. The ones that get impatient and don't put in the time and effort are the ones that lose."
Al Bumbry, who is hitting so well he could pull a double out of an Oriole hat, got the act going in the bottom of the third, with a single and a stolen base -- he has now hit in 12 straight games and stolen seven bases.
Belanger and Singleton followed with back-to-back that made the score 2-0.
The Orioles got two more in the fourth, one on Terry Crowley's first home run this year, the other on a single by John Lowenstein and a double by Rick Dempsey. That blew out the candles on Twins starter Al Williams, who was making his major league debut on his 26th birthday.
The Orioles got two more in the sixth, when reliever Roger erickson loaded the bases on walks and Rick Dempsey, who began the night hitting .208, drove in his second and third runs with a single to left.
"I heard guys on our bench hollering, 'Get the ball over,'" said Weaver. "I donT like that. If he wants to give us four or five runs, fine. As you can see by tonight, we never have enough."
Sure enough. Flanagan, who was 2-0 against the Twins last year, faltered in the seventh, giving up three runs on four hits, before being relieved by Sammy Stewart.
In the eighth, Stewart (1-2), the eventual winner, forgot how to spell relief and gave up a game-tying two-run home run to catcher Butch Wynegar.
In the bottom of the inning. Bumbry walked for the second time and went to third when third baseman John Castino threw Belanger's bunt over the first baseman's head. Of course, he had a reason: the bunt, Belanger's third hit, had hit him in the face.
Singleton tapped the ball to short and Bumbry beat the throw home for what proved to be the winning run.
"A cheapie," said Singleton, who got his first two non-home-run RBI tonight.
"Al makes things happen," said Weaver. "If he don't get on, Mark can't bunt. It's the third time Belanger's broken the game open with a bunt this year. If Bumbry keeps doing it, watching the ball as he is, he's going to hit .320 and steal 40 to 50 bases."
Bumbry said, "I had 37 without doing that."
Bumbry has had marked success this year laying off the high pitches that before "I would have swung at nine times out of 10. Now nine times out of 10 I don't."
And that, said Weaver, is the difference between "hitting .280 and .320."