The Orioles are becoming monotonous.
Tonight, they won their fourth straight game, their 14th in the last 17, holding off the Detroit Tigers, 6-5, before 23,040 in Memorial Stadium.
Doug DeCinces hit another home run, his seventh in seven games. Rich Dauer, batting .412 for his previous nine games, drove in three runs with two doubles. The unrelated Martinezes, Dennis and Tippy, combined for the victory, even though Tippy made two throwing errors which helped the Tigers cut a 6-12 deficit in the last two innings.
And the Orioles' reaction after raising their record to 28-14, keeping their American League East lead at three games?
DeCinces: "Nice to win. The home runs, well the ball's going over the fence, I guess that's been the difference."
Dauer: "I'm just hitting the ball real well."
Tippy Martinez: "I threw the ball well to the plate. I just couldn't throw it anyplace else."
And Manager Earl Weaver: "Anytime you win a game, it's a good night."
The Orioles could be forgiven for not wanting to discuss the merits of this victory. The sloppy, often bizarre game lasted three hours after being rain delayed 20 minutes at the start.
And Baltimore did some very un-Oriole-like things, such as making three errors in the last two innings. But, as usual in this 21-6 month, the Orioles still found a way to win.
The Tigers twice had chances to go ahead after trailing from the first inning. In the eighth, behind, 6-2, they loaded the bases with nobody out. That was all for Dennis Martinez.
Enter, Tippy. He stared well, forcing pinch hitter John Wockenfuss to ground to DeCinces for a force at the plate. Then, Martinez and Eddie Murray got cute, trying a play that had worked last year in Oakland in a similar, bases-loaded situation.
Murray, playing behind the runner (Steve Kemp), cut in quicky for a pickoff throw. One problem: Martinez threw low and away and the ball skipped past Murray. By the time he ran it down, two runs were in and Kemp was at second.Now is was 6-4.
Martinez went back to pitching at that point, retiring Champ Summers and Lance Parrish.
In the ninth, with one out, Tom Brookens walked. That hardly seemed to be a problem because Lou Whitaker smacked a double play grounder back to Martinez. But on his throw to second base martinez was low and away, the ball ending in center field.
Lynn Jones hit a ground ball to DeCinces, who earlier had started a brilliant double play. This time DeCinces kicked the tough half hop and the bases were loaded.
"Right then I was thinking, 'hit it to Blade (Mark Belanger)'" said Dauer. "I knew HE wouldn't make an error."
Alan Trammell did not cooperate. He hit a sharp grounder up the middle that looked for a second like a game-tying single. Dauer, cheating a step toward second against the up-to-middle hitting Trammell, dove, stopped the ball and flipped to Belanger to force Jones as a run scored.
Two out now and Steve Kemp, the Tigers' only .300 hitter, hit a weak ground ball to Murray, who stepped on first to finally end the suddenly close contest.
"Tippy did excellent," said Weaver. "He pitched well, threw well, got the outs he had to. I'm sorry we made the erros 'cause this club's got a chance to set an all-time fielding record. But you're going to make errors."
The Birds scored two runs in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Al Bumbry and Dauer and an RBI single by Jose Morales, given a start by Weaver because lefty Dan Schatzeder was pitching for the Tigers and because Weaver wanted to get his top pinch hitter some at bats.
Schatzeder lasted 21 pitches before Manager Sparky Anderson yanked him with the bases loaded and two outs in the first for Dae Rozema, who pitched the third out. Rozema wild-pitched Belanger home with the third run in the second inning before giving up a two-run double to Dauer in the fourth. That made it 5-1. The Tigers got one back in the fifth when Jones doubled home Al Cowens, but DeCinces and his homer answered that in the seventh.
"I think he (Rozema) threw the pitch he wanted to, a sinker on the outside corner," DeCinces said. "I just tried to get on top of the ball and drive it. That's what I've been doing lately. (Coach) Cal Ripken pointed out to me that I had been lifting my swing. Now, I'm on top of the ball, driving it, making better contact."
DeCinces shrugged. He was tired after driving back from labor negotiations in New York this afternoon.
In his office, Weaver was concerned about Bumbry, who left the game with a charley horse in his right leg. "We'll see how he is tomorrow, then decide whether to call someone up," he said.
Such worries. The Orioles are a hot-weather team. They are three games in front now. If this keeps up, they may have trouble staying awake by September.
"It's a long season," said Weaver, reaching for a final cliche.