Both times, as the line drives left California bats, the crows in Memorial Stadium gave a sigh of relief. And both times, the players in the Baltimore Oriole dugout, who knew better, let out screams of fear in the 5-3 O's victory.
"Lights, lights!" yelled the Birds in unison. "God, get out of the lights," the pleaded with the streaking fly balls.
But both times, the balls stayed right in line with the light towers above the stadium. Both times, the balls stayed in what the Orioles call The Bermuda Triangle, a no man's land in the outfield where routine fly balls regularly get lost and never are found until they roll to a stop on the warning track.
The 16,040 folks here tonight who saw the Birds (22-11) win their eight straight game probably saw nothing unusual in the final two innings as the O's protected their lead.
When Butch Hobson lined out to Gary Roenicke in right with the bases loaded and the O's ahead by two runs to end the eight, nobody gave the outfielder any applause. If anything, they wondered why Roenicke, now hitting .378 to lead the league, had made the play look so hard, buckling his knees at the last second and grabbing the ball in a catcher's squat.
And, in the ninth with two men on and only one out, when Don Baylor laced a liner to Jim Dwyer in left, the crowd clapped a bit but, again, wondered why it was necessary for Dwyer to scare them at the last instant by going into a superfluous slide to snag the ball knee high.
After the eight, the O's, who have won 17 of their last 20 games, weren't pounding the back of reliever Tim Stoddard, who was guarding Dennis Martinez's fifth consecutive win. They were searching out Roenicke for a quiet word of appreciation.
And, after the game, they not only were praising Tippy Martinez, who came in to mow down Fred Lynn, Baylor and Brian Downing in order with two on to get his sixth save, but also seeking out the unsung Dwyer.
"Five or six of those liners go to the fence every season," said Manager Earl Weaver. "Nobody knows how tough that play is. You've got to run to where you guess the ball is going and hope that it comes out of the lights in time to catch it."
For Roenicke in the eight, the terror ended when the ball suddenly appeared 10 feet in front of him. "You get down as low as you can so that the ball gets below the bottom row of the lights a split second sooner," he said.
For Dwyer, the experience was new. With the tying runs on base, he ran blind to where he thought Baylor's hooking liner would land. "When I started my slide, I still hadn't seen it," said Dwyer. "It jumped at me the last few feet and I smothered it. My heart was pounding for five minutes.
"If you make that play, nobody in the stands notices. If you miss it, they think you're a butcher."
From the beginning, this was a game of nuance. The Birds scored three runs in the second as Roenicke, Doug DeCinces and Mark Belanger knocked out rookie Mike Witt with scorching RBI hits to left (double, single, double). However, the run the O's prevented in the next half-inning also was vital. With two on, one out, catcher Dan Graham picked Rick Burleson off first base, the fifth O's pickoff of the year in addition to the 16 of 22 potential base thieves being erased. Dan Ford followed with an RBI triple.
After a Baylor solo homer in the fourth, the Birds got the run back when Al Bumbry shielded Bobby Grich's vision at the last instant so that Rich Dauer's easy grounder scooted past the Gold Glover into right field. Bumbry then scored on Ken Singleton's double.
In the eighth, Ford misplayed a slice double into a standup triple for Dwyer. That extra base meant an O's run on Roenicke's sacrifice fly. Rod Carew's leadoff homer in the ninth off Stoddard cut the margin back to the final 5-3.
This should have been an Angel win. But it wasn't. A Graham pickoff meant a run here. A Bumbry ballet in the basepath meant another there. A Roenicke catch saved two or three, and a Dwyer sliding grab prevented one or two more. That's inside baseball, the only kind the O's play, the only kind worth watching.