Barely surviving a ninth inning flurry by Seattle; the Baltimore Orioles welcomed the key month of September tonight with a 5-4 victory to remain 1 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees, 5-0 victors over Oakland earlier today.
The only thing hotter than Ken Singleton, who had two home runs batted in, was the Labor Day postgame fireworks 'Sky Concert' show that relaxed the 40,304 Memorial Stadium fans who experienced more than a few anxious moments during the three-run Mariner ninth inning when it seemed the Orioles had the game well in hand.
Leading, 5-1, with one out in the ninth, Baltimore reliever Tim Stoddard gave up a single to Reggie Walton, a wild pitch and a walk to Ted Cox, a run-scoring single to pinch hitter Leon Roberts and a two-run double to Larry Milbournex, who had three hits tonight. All of a sudden the lead run was at the plate.
But Tippy Martinex came on with Milbourne on second base and got pinch-hitter Bill Stein to ground out to shortstop and Dan Meyer to fly out to right for his 10th save for Dennis Martinez (4-3).
The pesky Mariners, who own the worst record in baseball (47-83, .364) have given the defending American League Champs fits all year, winning six out of 10 games between the two teams this season. They defeated the Birds twice in Seattle last week when one Baltimore win would have given them first place over New York.
But Baltimore hitters walked out of the dugout swinging from the heels tonight, knowing that the Yankees had already won.
Singleton hit his first home run in the first inning -- a 3-1 fastball, low on the outside corner, giving the O's a 1-0 lead. Doug DeCinces extended it to 2-0 with a centerfield single, scoring Eddie Murray who had walked and stolen second base.
All the damage was done to Seattle starter and loser Mike Parrot (1-12) who hasn't won a game since opening day against Toronto. Parrot had established himself as the Mariner ace last season with a 14-12 record and a 3.77 earned run average. But his poor spring this year, coupled with a bad groin injury had the 25-year old righthander in Triple A in Spokane, Wash., until today when he returned to the team.
He held the O's in check in the second, third and fourth innings but gave another home run to Singleton in the fifth -- this one a two-run shot 400 feet to right centerfield scoring Bumbry who had reached base with his second of three hits and his second stolen base (number 34).
"With Eddie (Murray) going like he is I'm seeing better pitches to hit," said Singleton, who has three home runs in two games, breaking out of a two week slump which saw his batting average drop 14 points to .285.
Said Oriole manager Earl Weaver, who returned to the dugout tonight after serving his three-day suspension for bumping an umpire two weeks ago: "It's a good sign for the club when he's hitting home runs like this. Let's hope Singy's power continues."
Gary Roenicke, a goat-turned-hero, hit his eighth home run 30 rows deep to left field in the sixth inning for Baltimore's final run.
It was the previous inning that Roenicke made about five errors in one play on a drive hit to him in left field by Seattle shortstop Mario Mendoza. The play was officially scored as a three-base hit.
Roenicke misjudged the ball twice, first going back even though the liner was sinking and then to his left, though the ball was curving right. Then he fell and watched the ball bounce over his head and roll to the wall.
To make matters worse, his throw to the infield was nowhere near cutoff man Kiko Garcia, allowing Mendoza to slide safely into third. The boo-birds were not happy.
Roenicke wasted no time in redeeming himself when, on the next pitch, Larry Milbourne lofted a deep fly ball toward the left field line. Roenicke looked like Willie Mays as he drifted over and caught the ball with one hand while his momentum carried him toward the infoeld.
He threw a perfect one-bounce strike to Rick Dempsey at the plate to nail Mendoza for an inning ending double play.
But the real hero of the night was Tippy Martinez who came on after Stoddard and Dennis Martinez had allowed 13 hits, though most off Martinez were scattered over seven-plus innings.