If Baltimore's Rich Dauer had his way, the baseball season would begin in May, not April. Dauer perennially doesn't hit stride until well into May, and he showed tonight he knows it has arrived.
Dauer banged out three hits, including a two-run single in a four-run fifth inning, to help the Orioles swat the Cleveland Indians, 7-3, before 14,298 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Dauer's hits and four RBI by Eddie Murray, including a two-run homer, were all the Orioles needed tonight to post their fifth victory in the past six games.
"It seems like every April I'm hitting .000 or something," said Dauer, who has raised his batting average more than 35 points this month. "May has always been a good month for me. Right now, I'm hitting the ball pretty good. I hit three on the nose tonight."
The first one he tagged went into left-center field and chased home Pat Kelly and Lenn Sakata to break a 1-1 deadlock. Kelly had singled to open the inning then stole second and third. Lee May, who homered for Baltimore's first run in the second inning, fanned but Sakata walked. After Sakata stole second, Dauer drilled his game-breaking hit.
Indian right-hander Len Barker, after limiting the O's to one hit through four innings, had suddenly lost his form. Al Bumbry singled sharply to center, sending Dauer to second. Wayne Krenchicki fouled out but Ken Singleton drew one of his three walks tonight, loading the bases.
That was it for Barker (5-3). Bob Owchinko came in and was greeted with a two-run single by Eddie Murray to give the Birds a 5-1 lead.
"That's what we needed," said Dauer, who went 0 for 22 in the month of April three years ago.
"Fortunately, we got some men on base for me and I hit the ball where no one could field it. There's a lot of luck in baseball."
Baltimore had all the four-leaf clovers and horshoes tonight. The Birds, moving within two games of .500 slapped 11 hits, and got good pitching from Scott McGregor (3-2) and reliever Tim Stoddard.
Stoddard, who threw only five pitches in giving up two hits in the Oriole's 6-4 loss to Detroit Sunday, gave Cleveland one hit in 2 2/3 innings and was credited with his eighth save of the year.
McGregor struggled a bit in the early innings, allowing the Indians base runners in every inning but the sixth. Cleveland had two men on in both the first and third innings but McGregor got designated hitter Cliff Johnson out to end the threats.
"I threw a lot of fast balls, more than normal," McGregor noted. "I did throw Cliff a couple of off-speed pitches to keep him honest. You don't want to give up a home run in a situation like that. I felt pretty good when I went out but there's no sense in taking chances."
McGregor looked strong but ran into a little trouble in the seventh. Rick Manning and Dave Rosello smacked back-to-back singles to open the inning. Tom Veryzer hit into a force play at second, Manning taking third. Jorge Orta lined out to center as Manning scored to cut the deficit to 5-2.
McGregor became a bit too cute with Toby Harah and the Indians' third baseman drew a walk.
"I'm trying not to give him anything good and I walk him anyway," said McGregor.