For 50 days of this summer, Doug DeCinces had one strike against him. As the player representative of the American League during the labor turmoil, the Orioles' third baseman played a different sort of hot corner, fielding criticism.
Tonight, Chicago's Lamarr Hoyt had a a one-strike count on DeCinces with the bases loaded and none out in the fourth. For DeCinces, this would be a quick negotiation -- two pitches later, a settlement would be reached.
With one swing, DeCinces all but determined the outcome of this game, which included a 1 hour 26 minute rain delay in the middle of the fifth inning. He lofted a 2-1 pitch high into the rainy Baltimore night. It splashed down into the left field bleachers for a grand slam and the Orioles defeated the White Sox, 4-0, at Memorial Stadium before 15,323.
"No doubt about it," said DeCinces, who has been hitting (eight-for-22) and fielding with extreme competence since the strike and since the recall from Rochester of Cal Ripkin Jr., the player many insist will replace DeCinces.
Dennis Martinez (8-3), who has not lost in Memorial Stadium in one full year -- he's 6-0 during this calendar rotation -- pitched a complete game, the first for the Orioles since the strike started. He gave up two harmless hits prior to the downpour and, afterwards, he only yielded a ninth-inning single to Mike Squires.
Hoyt (4-3) did not return after the halt, giving way to relievers Reggie Patterson and Lynn McGlothen.
Before the players and fans went to snorkle away the 86 minutes, DeCinces gave them a simple, drip-dry performance of excellence. In the top of the fourth, he backhanded a Carlton Fisk rocket -- which had seemed destined for the left-field corner -- and turned it into a force play.
Then, following his fourth career grand slam, his eighth homer of this strange season of two halves, DeCinces made another play that made you think this must be 1972, another strike season when Brooks Robinson made a defensive gem or two.
With the rain falling at a Why-Don't-The-Umps-Stop-This pace, Martinez had two outs in the top of the fifth. He needed to get Jim Morrison to make sure this game would be official.
Morrison stepped out, rubbed dirt on his hands, futzed with his helmet, anything to delay the game so that the rain might intervene with a cancellation. Finally, Morrison dropped a one-strike surprise bunt towards third. DeCinces sloshed forward and threw off-balance to nip Morrison -- and cancellation -- by a step.
"I just knew I had to throw him out because I knew the game would be complete at that point," said DeCinces.
Ken Singleton, whose line out, walk and strikeout meant the end of a nine-game hitting streak, opened the fourth with a walk and Eddie Murray followed with a high-hop single into right. Hoyt then walked Terry Crowley on four pitches, before DeCinces took in his 33nd, 34rd, 35th and 36th RBIs of the year.