It was a raw and messy day for baseball. World Series weather, one might say. And Dennis Leonard clearly was in postseason form as the Kansas City Royals defeated the Baltimore Orioles today, 4-2.
Leonard had a no-hitter going until Rich Dauer, nobody's Mr. April -- lifetime .197 for the month -- doubled with none out in the seventh inning. Later, Leonard, who had won his first start of the year only once before, was asked if he knew that Dauer never hit in April.
"Did he know I wasn't a pitcher in April? I guess that's fair. I broke his slump. They broke mine. . . It's my best start ever in April. I'm 1-0."
Leonard gave up three hits all told and got by with a little help from his friend Dan Quisenberry, who came in with the bases loaded and none out in the ninth.
Quisenberry got Doug DeCinces to bounce back to the mound and threw home to force Ken Singleton for the first out. A walk to Terry Crowley forced in the Orioles' first run of the game and a sacrifice fly by Jim Dwyer drove in the second. Wayne Krenchicki's fly to center put the Orioles and 18,624 chilled onlookers out of their misery.
"Whenever I come in the dishes are always dirty," said Quisenberry. "There's always something to clean up. The only time I come in with no mess is in spring training."
Spring seemed very far away today. A cold and driving rain delayed the start of the game 65 minutes. It was the kind of day when nobody wants to play ball. So George Brett decided to call the game on his own.
In the clubhouse during the rain delay, Brett retired to a private room and placed a private call to Jose Martinez, a Royal coach, telling him anonymously the game had been postponed. Martinez circled the locker room calling, "La casa, la casa " -- let's go home.
No doubt, the Orioles wish they had.
It was a scoreless game until the fifth inning. John Wathan singled, only the second Kansas City hit off Mike Flanagan, sharp up to then. Clint Hurdle, who was "rested" against many left-handers last year, hit a 3-2 fast ball over the right field fence for his second home run here in his second game of the season.
"I just show up and play," said Hurdle, the man who named himself the right fielder on his all-hot-dog team this spring. "I have no verbal agreement, no verbal contract (to play against left-handers). I do my talking with may bat."
The Royals scored twice more in the sixth, when Willie Wilson led off with a double that plopped against the warning track in right. U. L. Washington and Brett followed with singles, and Scott McGregor followed Flanagan to the mound.
Flanagan, who left having given up four runs on six hits though having struck out five, said, "When it's nothing-nothing all the way, you're not as loose as if you have a one- or two-run lead. You try to do too much. You try to change things around.
"I only made two mistakes -- well, one and a half: the pitch to Hurdle, it wasn't a fast ball down the middle (it was a fast ball up) and the next inning, I hung a breaking ball to Wilson. It just so happened that Brett came up in the middle of the inning. He hit a great pitch, a slider.That's what makes him a .390 hitter."
The Orioles had their chances, leaving two on in each of the last three innings. Amos Otis, the Royal who helped give away the first game of the season by dropping an easy fly ball in left field Friday, tried to do it again today.
In the seventh, after Dauer broke up Leonard's no-hitter with his two-base shot inside third base and Singleton bounced out to the mound, Eddie Murray hit an easy fly to Otis. Ever nonchalant, Otis dropped the ball and flung his glove.
But Leonard struck out Dan Graham and Doug DeCinces to end the inning. "He was in midseason form today," Quisenberry said of Leonard, who fanned six. "I don't think anyone on the team has seen him look this good this early."
Part of the reason is that Leonard, normally a power pitcher, has developed a changeup, which he threw 12-15 times today and used to keep the Orioles off balance.
"Until guys get used to him pitching with it," Flanagan said, "he's going to be tough."
He was. Until the ninth inning, when his fast ball, which he said, "is supposed to rise, started to sink, and I knew I was in trouble."
Indeed. Baltimore filled the bases on a single by Singleton, an error on Murray's grounder to second baseman Frank White (his first after 36 error-less games) and a walk to Graham.
Enter Quisenberry, who had decided it was a beautiful day for a ball game, and for his first save, after all. "We got off to a lead. Once you get a lead, you always think the game should be played."
"Once you get a lead, it's always a great day for a game, right, Quiz?" concurred staffmate Paul Splittorff.
Quisenberry flashed a beatific grin. "Pretty day," he said.