After two tries, Earl Weaver finally said something printable.
"That," the Baltimore Oriole manager said with a sigh after taking a heavy drag on his cigaret and and exhaling like Mount St. Helens, "was a sapsucker."
He was referring to the Orioles' 8-7 victory over the Texas Rangers before 22,659 fans at Memorial Stadium. The Birds overcame a 3-0 deficit and survived a four-run Ranger ninth inning to gain their fourth straight victory and go nine games over .500 for the first time this season. Mike Flanagan, last year's Cy Young winner, stopped a two-game losing streak and raised his record to 9-8 Jim Kern, the ace of Texas' bullpen in 1979 but not this season, took the loss and fell to 2-11.
"It always feels good when you come from behind," Weaver admitted. "But I think you'd have to say that we got away with one again."
For the first six innings the Rangers' Doc Medich, whose last outing against the Birds was an 11-1 victory at Memorial Stadium on July 15, 1978, shut out Baltimore on five hits.
His teammates, meanwhile, reached Flanagan for two runs in the fifth on singles by Dave Roberts and Mickey Rivers, Bump Wills' sacrifice, and a single by Al Oliver. And the Rangers increased their lead to 3-0 when Jim Sundberg homered in the sixth. With Medich baffling the Bird hitters, the lead seemed safe and secure.
The illusion lasted one inning. When Terry Crowley and Lee May led off the seventh with singles, Ranger Manager Pat Corrales decided that too much of Medich was not a good thing. He replaced him with Kern, and then the game became interesting.
Catcher Rick Dempsey grounded into a fielder's choice but Kiko Garcia scored Crowley with a soft single to right. Then, with Lenn Sakata due up, Weaver went to his bench.
"I'm not really making moves against Pat," he said. "I'm just sending guys up to try to get hits."
He sent up four consecutive pinch hitters. The first was Eddie Murray, who had been scheduled to start his first game since taking 10 stitches over his right eye last Sunday but who yielded to May when his vision blurred. It was the switch-hitting first baseman's first pinch hitting appearance since his rookie year of 1977. He rewarded the crowd's ovation with a single that cut the Birds' deficit to 3-2.
Corrales bade Kern a not-too-fond farewell and brought in left-hander John Henry Johnson. Weaver countered with right-handed hitter Gary Roenicke for Al Bumbry, and Johnson intentionally walked him.
Exit Johnson and enter righty Bobby Darwin, the Rangers' leading reliever. Forget Rich Dauer and say hello to lefty Pat Kelly, who Darwin unintentionally walked to tie the game.
Corrales then summoned lefty Sparky Lyle, whereupon Weaver sat down lefty John Lowenstein and sent up rightly Benny Ayala. He grounded to shortstop Roberts, who threw out Ayala at first while Mark Belanger, running for Murray, scored the lead run.
Ken Singleton, hitting .393 in his last 32 games then gave the Birds a 6-3 cushion with a shot up the middle.
There was more fun the next inning. After Garcia forced Dempsey at second, Belanger sliced a liner down the rightfield line. Richie Zisk dove and missed. He chased the ball as Belanger chased Garcia home.
Wills' relay reached catcher Sundberg just as Belanger did. Replays later showed he beat the tag, but he had to wait for Sundberg to drop the ball for an error before being called safe, thereby getting a triple instead of an inside-the-park home run.
The seemingly meaningless two runs became important in the ninth. Tim Stoddard, called on to protect the lead, failed to do so. He allowed a walk, two singles and Wills' two-run double before being rescued by Tippy Martinez. He, in turn, surrendered two run-scorgrounders, on which Belanger and Garcia made excellent plays. With the Birds' margin 8-7, Martinez ended the game by striking out Zisk.
Stoddard always does that," Weaver said."Whenever we've got a big lead, he can't get any outs. I fell pretty good, but I would have felt a lot better if it had ended 8-3."