In the dog days of baseball, now upon us, the angry days are in July.
In July, there is still enought time left for a trailing team to make a move. There is still hope. Often hope breeds frustration.
Frustration and anger were evident in every corner of the Baltimore Oriole clubhouse today after the Texas Rangers and Ferguson Jenkins had walked away with a 7-1 victory before a crowd of 20,012 in Memorial Stadium.
Manager Earl Weaver complained loudly about the umpires, especially their "letting Jenkins get away with murder all day long."
Jim Palmer (9-7), after pitching all nine innings in 100-degree heat, moaned about not gettin any runs when he pitches against the Rangers. "It's tough to concentrate out there when you know you're going to lose," he said. "Check the stats. When was the last time I got any runs against these guys?"
Catcher Rick Dempsey, standing next to Palmer, couldn't resist a swipe at that comment. "We could have scored six runs today and we still would have lost, Jim," Dempsey said, smiling to show Palmer he was only half-serious.
Palmer didn't smile back. "You think I would have given up seven runs if I'd had six early?" he snapped at Dempsey.
So it went in the home clubhouse. The room cleared quickly.
On the other side, the Rangers lingered, savoring their second straight victory over the Orioles, this one provided by a three-run sixth inning, catcher Jim Sundberg's three-run homer in the ninth and Jenkins' eight-hitter. The Ranger pitcher was masterful, snuffing out every Oriole threat. Baltimore's only run came on Ken Singleton's 13th home run in the eight inning.
"It was nice to get some runs," said Jenkins (8-8), who lost two of his last three decisions by 2-1 scores. "I was lucky to get through the early innings pretty easily so I had something at the end."
At 36 Jenkins, now a 255-game winner in the major leagues, doesn't have the fat ball of old. But he has guile, guts and, according to Weaver, the umpires on his side.
"He's gonna beat you every damn time when the umpires give him pitches four inches off the plate and let him keep rubbing dirt in the seam of the ball." Weaver said. "Every time he complains about a pitch, they give him the next three."
The Orioles seemed snakebit from the start. They fell behind, 1-0, in the second when Buddy Bell sliced a pop-up down the right field line. Singleton waited for the bounce, then had the ball skitter away from him into the corner for a triple. Bell scored one out later on a sacrifice fly by Pat Putnam
The Birds could have pulled even in the bottom of the inning -- but didn't.
Pat Kelly led off with a single to right. Terry Crowley then slammed a line drive that seemed destined for the left field corner.
Instead, Bell twisted to his right and made a lunging backhand catch. Gary Roenicke followed with another line drive. This time left fielder Al Oliver lunged to make a tough catch.
"It ain't bad luck," Weaver said. It's the difference between hitting the ball in the park or out of the park, last year we hit 'em out. We're 40 of those short this year. Luck has nothing to do with that."
Luck also had nothing to do with Kiko Garcia and Singleton striking out in the third after Bumbry's one-out double, the first of his three wasted hits. A Bumbry single with two out in the fifth moved Roenicke, hit by a pitch, to third. This time, Jenkins got Garcia to pop to Bell.
Palmer's artistry for five innings -- Bell's was the only hit -- had netted him a 1-0 deficit. In the sixth, he unraveled. With one out, Mickey Rivers singled to left, the opposite field. Bumb Wills doubled him home, again hitting to the oppostie field, left. Oliver singled up the middle, scoring Wills, moved to second on the throw home and scored on Rusty Staub's opposite field single.
"I threw ground balls to shortstop all day and they kept going into left field all day," said Palmer, apparently taking a swipe at Garcia. "The only bad pitches were to Oliver in the sixth and Sundberg in the ninth."
The bad pitch to Sundberg resulted in a three-run homer to left. The Texas catcher's seventh home run this season, a career high, was his fifth against the Orioles. He is hitting .433 against the O's this year, 306 against them for his career.
"Palmer did all right," Weaver said. "They just knocked hell out of him. and the umpires hurt him too."
Told at that point that Jenkins had said he would have 300 wins already had he pitched for the Orioles all his life, Weaver took a final swipe at the Texas pitcher.
"If they gave him pitches like they did today all his life he'd have 400 wins by now!" Weaver exclaimed.
He stalked to the shower. Palmer stalked to the training room. The dog days are here.