The Chicago White Sox blew out the candles on Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver's 51st birthday cake tonight. For much of their 5-3 victory, however, it appeared the White Sox were trying to make him a present of the game.
A Chicago Tribune story this morning quoted unnamed White Sox as saying they would consider a Black Sox encore if a deliberate late-season defeat would insure their entry into the divisional playoffs. (Details, Page D2) Cynics among tonight's crowd of 15,401 might contend they were watching a rehearsal that failed.
The White Sox won although their infield committed four errors, their outfield turned a catchable fly and a simple single into doubles, their relievers walked four men in the last two innings and two runners were picked off base by Baltimore right-hander Sammy Stewart.
Chicago scored enough runs to win on Jim Morrison's two-run homer in the third, on singles by Ron LeFlore and Mike Squires in the fifth, and on Bill Almon's single in the ninth. The victory assured the White Sox, 5-2 with two games left, of winning a season series from Baltimore for the first time since 1974.
"I'm just relieved," said Chicago Manager Tony LaRussa. "A few more like that and I'll either lose my hair or it'll turn gray. Our defense has been playing well, but they had kind of a rough night tonight."
Asked whether the tank-job flap might have affected his players, LaRussa said, "I don't like excuses. We just had a day where we made some errors."
Morrison, who committed two of those errors, grimaced at a joking reference to acting out the morning news and said, "The story hit the papers with such a splash, it had to distract us somewhat. I'm just glad we won with all those mistakes and I'm glad I hit that homer to help out. Doug (DeCinces) was playing so well, I was embarrassed to go out to third base."
For the second straight night, DeCinces batted in both runs for Baltimore. He also made two great plays at third, throwing out Chet Lemon after a great backhanded stop in the second and barely missed getting Squires after another backhander deep behind third followed by an accurate throw in the fifth. Had that remarkable play gotten Squires, it also would have nullified the eventual winning run, scored by Tony Bernazard, who had a hit and three walks in four at bats and boosted his season's average against Baltimore to .536 (15 for 28).
Chicago pitchers Richard Dotson, Steve Trout and Ed Farmer limited Baltimore to five hits and overcame both their teammates' shortcomings and their own late-inning largesse.
Dotson, who pitched five innings and beat Baltimore for the third time this season, did not walk a man. Trout, however, passed the first two batters in the eighth, with Chicago ahead, 4-3. After Farmer relieved, catcher Carlton Fisk picked pinch runner Lenn Sakata off second -- the Orioles hardly played flawlessly, either. Farmer then struck out Gary Roenicke and retired DeCinces on a grounder.
Farmer walked two in a row with one out in the ninth. Al Bumbry, after forcing Cal Ripken Jr. for the second out, promptly stole second without a throw to put the tying runs in scoring position. But Benny Ayala grounded out.
The White Sox messed up two straight potential double-play grounders in the first inning, Bumbry scoring Baltimore's first run as a relay by shortstop Almon wound up in the Chicago dugout.
Following his homer, Morrison booted a grounder by Ken Singleton to help Baltimore tie, 2-2, in the fourth. DeCinces' double produced the run, the ball landing on the warning track in left as LeFlore just missed it, backtracking and waving his glove like a signal for help.
The Orioles came within one in the sixth against Trout with their only technically "earned" run. Right fielder Harold Baines fell chasing Singleton's fly in the corner, giving the Oriole a double. Singleton took third on Roenicke's single and scored when Morrison threw off target to second on an attempted force play. Bernazard's knee caught the sliding Roenicke in the head as he leaped for Morrison's high toss, but Roenicke stayed in the game, to have the bell's rings replaced by boos when he fanned in the eighth.