The Baltimore Orioles bottomed out tonight. Their 5-1 loss to the Texas Rangers put the American League champs into last place in the East Division.
Not to say the O's are panicking. Tomorrow, the players say, is another day.
"I'm going to put nine people on the lineup card tomorrow and try to win," disgruntled Manager Earl Weaver said. "I'll put down the nine most capable players and we'll see what happens."
"There's no cure for this kind of thing," shortstop Mark Belanger said. "You just go out and try your best tomorrow and if that doesn't work, you do it the next day."
The Orioles were almost spared the agony tonight as a game-time storm turned the field into a bayou. But the stay of execution lasted only an hour. tMoments after the tarp peeled off the infield the O's were back into the recurrent nightmare that has been this young season so far.
Dave Ford, starting in place of Jim Palmer, who has back problems, gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Mickey Rivers led off with a line drive single to right and moved to second when Bump Wills grounded out. Al Oliver singled to left scoring Rivers. Buddy Bell hit a hot smash off third baseman Doug DeCinces's glove and into left field for a double. Pat Putnam's ground out scored Oliver. With two out, Richie Zisk hit a torrid, line drive homer into the left field seats.
Ford, who needed only 17 pitches to raise his earned-run average from 2.78 to 4.30, was mercifully sent to the showers in favor of Tippy Martinez.
Martinez was brilliant, allowing three hits in 8 1/3 innings. A seventh inning homer by Jim Sundberg was his only mistake.
"When a guy throws like that you wonder why did you let yourself get down four runs to start with," Weaver said.
The Orioles hit Jon Matlack (3-0) consistently. They ripped nine hits, were retired on line drives six times and had three potential home runs fall on the wrong side of the left field foul pole.
"When a team is going like this, the mistakes and balls just landing foul always stand out," Belanger said. "When you're winning, the errors are insignificant. Nobody talks about the balls that just go foul or the line drive double plays."
The just-missed stood out for the Orioles all night.
In the third inning, Rich Dauer led off with a single. Belanger ripped a sinking liner to center and Dauer took off. But Mickey Rivers, who plays the shallowest center field in the majors, caught the ball ankle high and made an excellent throw to double off Dauer.
Two innings later, the O's got runners to first and third on singles by DeCinces and Ken Singleton.But hitting bullets foiled them again. Rangers third baseman Buddy Bell picked Rick Dempsey's shot off his shoetops and Singleton was caught between first and second.
The Orioles finally scored in the ninth when Gary Roenicke singled, Eddie Murray doubled and DeCinces hit a sacrifice fly.
"These guys were trying to win just like they did last year," Weaver said. "We're just going about it the wrong way. We're not doing things. I mean, why the hell can't we put on a pick-off play? We're just not doing it. We're trying hard but we're getting a little edgy."
Belanger concluded, "Every team in the league goes through periods like this. To get out of it, you have to start hitting balls that are just fair."
Like last year?