Lenn Sakata, the last offensive move available to Oriole Manager Earl Weaver, shocked himself, the Milwaukee Brewers and 14,525 fans tonight when he ripped a changeup over the left field fence to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning and give the Orioles a 9-8 victory.
Sakata, the 19th Oriole to play (only five pitchers and the injured Ken Singleton remained), produced his first career winning hit against the team that drafted him in the 1975 free agent draft.
"It was just an accident," explained the 26-year-old second baseman who had been recalled from Rochester in May. "I'm not a home run hitter (his two other major league blasts came against the Orioles in 1977). It may never happen again. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I thought he(Ben Oglivie) was going to catch it."
The homer off reliever Bob McClure, the fourth Brewer pitcher, ended a four-hour marathon that came within 21 minutes of a midnight curfew.
Sakata's blast overshadowed the record hitting performance of Oriole second baseman Rich Dauer and four home runs by the Brewers, who entered the game leading the American League in six offensive departments.
Sakata was batting for Wayne Krenchicki, who had gone to shortstop in the seventh after Terry Crowley pinch hit for Mark Belanger.
Dauer tied two Oriole marks as he collected five straight singles (most hits in a game) and ran his two-game hit streak to eight (most consecutive hits). It was his eighth-inning infield hit off Brewer pitcher Bill Castro that helped the Orioles gain an 8-8 tie.
Al Bumbry followed with a two-run triple.
"Dauer's hitting really helps," Weaver said. "It means runs, means wins, keeps innings going. Dauer's keeping him (Sakata) out of the line-up."
The Oriole second baseman twice scored the tying run to help offset Milwaukee's power. The Brewers, who had won eight of their last 11 and trailed the Yankees by only 4 1/2 games, took leads three times, only to move to within one game of .500 at 23-24, battle back.
Cecil Cooper hit the first of two home runs and extended his batting streak to 17 games with a two-run blast off Oriole starter Steve Stone in the fourth.
The Orioles came back to take a 4-2 lead thanks to a fielding miscue by shortstop Robin Yount and Oglivie's misjudgement on Benny Ayala's line triple to left. DeCinces had opened the fourth with a single and Eddie Murray was safe on Yount's bobble. With two-out, Ayala tripled. After Rich Demsey walked, Dauer singled home Ayala and Bumbry singled home Demsey.
Cooper, batting .343 with 34 runs driven in before tonight, tied the game in the fifth with his second two-run blast to right.
The Brewers, under the direction of Buck Rodgers, who has been guiding the team while Manager George Bamberger recovers from a March heart attack (Bamberger is due back Friday), moved ahead, 5-4, in the sixth on a home run by Oglivie. It was his 13th this season, tops in the AL, and sent Stone to the showers to be replaced by Dave Ford, the first of four Oriole relievers. Tippy Martinez picked up the victory.
Brewer starter Billy Travers, who began the night with 15 straight scoreless innings, was replaced to start the sixth by Reggie Cleveland, who gave up a game-tying homer to Lee May.
After the Brewers moved to a 7-5 lead, DeCinces doubled home Dauer and the Orioles trailed, 7-6, after seven. Gorman Thomas homered in the Brewer eighth before Bumbry's Oriole heroics.