The Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, supposedly the two most fundamentally sound baseball teams in the American League, should be awakened before sunrise tomorrow morning and forced to report to Yankee Stadium at first light for 12 hours of dawn-to-dusk bunting practice. Those who aren't doing penance by bunting can work on their clutch hitting.
This miserable, suffering dumb brute of a scoreless games was so excruciatingly full of snafus that somewhere along about the 10th inning the umpires should have declared a shootout, NASL style. Let the batter throw up the ball by hand and see how far he can hit it.
But 30,162 people left this baseball palace at 11:30 tonight screaming at the top of their lungs after Graig Nettles' two-out, two-run homer off Oriole reliever Tippy Martinez had given the Yankees a 2-0 victory in the 11th inning after Dennis Martinez had allowed but three hits in 10 innings.
This marked the second straight evening that a 400-foot, two-run blast to right field had given the Yanks a sudden-death victory in the 11th inning and brought bedlam to the Bronx. Tuesday night it was Dave Revering going deep to the bleachers off Sammy Stewart, and this evening Nettles turned around the first pitch he saw from Tippy Martinez with Dave Winfield on second base, hooking a high drive far back into the pavillion, fair by a save 10 yards.
The Orioles certainly had every right to be depressed after their fourth straight defeat, their longest losing streak of a 28-18 season that still has them in first place, though the Yankees are now one game behind.
The Birds squandered what was almost certainly the greatest game of 25-year-old Dennis Martinez' career. The Nicaraguan right-hander had allowed the Yankees only one base hit to the outfield; the Yanks did not hit one ball solidly off Martinez all night that traveled more than 150 feet. As a classic fillip in a lost cause, Martinez even struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, whiffing New York's murderers' row of Winfield, Reggie Jackson and Nettles.
As if the Orioles needed more bad news, they announced after the game that Jim Palmer, Thursday's scheduled starter, has been scratched because of his lingering stiff neck and that Dave Ford, customarily the mop-up long relief man, will face Yankee rookie Gene Nelson, the youngest player in the majors, as the New Yorkers try for their sixth win in seven games.
This night held the stuff of Oriole nightmares. Now the O's know how the Yankees felt a week ago when they were swept three straight in Baltimore. t
Seven times tonight the Orioles got the leadoff man on base. Seven times he was stranded. From the third through seventh innings, Manager Earl Weaver had a chance to signal for the sacrifice bunt that he hates in every frame. He never did.
The worst of it for the Birds, however, came in the ninth and 10th.
Baltimore had two on and none out in the ninth when brilliant Yankee rookie starter Dave Righetti left and relief winner Ron Davis entered. Davis, who, incredibly, leads the American League in strikeouts with 57 in just 40 innings, slipped the Birds his calling card by bamboozling Gary Roenicke on two pathetic bunt attempts before fanning him on a high heater. That took the teeth out of one threat.
The Yankee coup de grace game in the 10th. Jim Dwyer, who had fanned four times against Righetti, battled Davis through 11 pitches, then hit a liner to right that Bobby Brown should have caught. Instead, the brutal outfielder missed a shoestring catch, then finally surrounded the ball after it had become motionless on the warning track. Dwyer stood motionless on third and the Yankees were in grim circumstances.
Then, Davis turned their game around with a back-to-the-wall stand that was the equal of Goose Gossage's bases-loaded, none-out escape in the 10th inning the night before. With the infield in, Davis got Rich Dauer to tap to shortstop; then, after walking Ken Singleton, he struck out Eddie Murray and easily got John Lowenstein to fly out to end the inning.
The Orioles sinned worst tonight and richly deserved to lose, but the Yankees could hardly crow. They hashed up two more sacrifice bunt attempts this evening, bringing to four the number of vital late-inning force outs at second base that they have presented to Baltimore as gifts.
Seldom will a team want to kick itself more than the O's, hitting under .200 for their past four games, who put 14 men on base.
"One lousy sacrifice fly, that's all we needed," said a disgusted but, not surprisingly, self-controlled Weaver.
For the second straight night, Weaver will hear second-guesses because he chose to pitch to a power hitter with a man on second base and first open. Just as folks hearabouts wondered why Weaver didn't walk Revering to get to Dent on Tuesday, they will want to know why he didn't intentionally pass Nettles and force the Yankees, in all probabilitry, to pinch hit Lou Piniella for Revering.
In the long run, the significance of this game may be that two young pitchers, Righetti and the inconsistent Dennis Martinez, both looked dazzling in a pressure game.
"This is exactly how we want Dennis to pitch," said Coach Ray Miller. "I think maybe he finally has the total idea. After tonight, he came off the field knowing he can beat anybody in the American League."