When the Baltimore Orioles' 8-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers was over today, there were only two things to say: Lenn Sakata looked like Babe Ruth, and Jim Palmer looked like Jim Palmer.
Palmer, who had very little to say after pitching his first complete game since May 25, mumbled, "Yeah, I looked like him all year except when I pitched."
Palmer (6-8, 3-4 in the second season) mumbled some more.
"That's the way I'm supposed to pitch . . . I'm glad we won. I don't have anything to say. Go talk to Lenny. That's why we won."
The Orioles won because Palmer, who was exiled to the bullpen last week after he lasted only one-third of an inning against Milwaukee, pitched a five-hitter, and because Sakata, who has six career home runs, hit two of them against his former team. He finished with four hits, five RBI and a standing ovation.
The last time he hit two home runs he was in college. The last time he had five RBI? "Maybe an intrasquad game," Sakata said.
Manager Earl Weaver held a team meeting before the game on the "state of the pennant race -- we're still damn much in it." After the game, the Orioles were in fourth place, two games behind the Tigers, who had regained first. Milwaukee and Boston are in second, a half-game behind Detroit.
Today it was Mike Caldwell's turn to last one-third of an inning. Caldwell, the Brewers' starting and losing pitcher, was done in by Sakata, the leadoff batter, who hit a 2-2 pitch into the left field bullpen for his second home run of the year, and by Eddie Murray, who lined a 2-1 pitch into the left field corner for his 19th home run. The Orioles led, 3-0, and never looked back.
In the second, Palmer, starting in place of Steve Stone, gave up a two-run homer to Ben Oglivie, his only transgression of the day.
Palmer retired six Brewers on pop flies, which, according to Pitching Coach Ray Miller, is "a good indication of how Jimmy's pitching. You get depressed sometimes because he (Palmer) gets down on himself.
"He's not always able to do what he wants. He said, 'Take me out of the rotation,' and then when (Mike) Flanagan couldn't pitch he said, 'Put me back in.' He got knocked out early (in Milwaukee) and went back to the bullpen. When Stone went out, he said, 'Put me back in.' When I told him he was starting, he said, 'I'll look forward to the win.' "
"Nothing's changed," Palmer said. Nothing's different. Only the result was different."
"He's definitely going through a transition period," he said. "You go 15 years and you're always able to reach back for something extra. Now the extra not only hasn't been there, but he hasn't been able to throw the ball where he wanted to.
"Today, he concentrated on placement and the breaking pitch and stopped worrying about velocity. He didn't throw any harder than the two times he got knocked out."
There were some pitches, like an 0-2 slider to Cecil Cooper, that the ghost of Palmer past would never have thrown. "He's starting to accept the transition," Miller said.
Sakata, who is hitting .358 since he became the starting shortstop on Sept. 2, is undoubtedly feeling needed. Mark Belanger hurt his shoulder, and his .165 average hurt the Orioles. Sakata began to wonder about himself, languishing on the bench, until becoming a regular.
With the Orioles leading, 4-2, in the bottom of the third, Doug DeCinces walked on four pitches. Al Bumbry bunted to third, and the ball trickled under Roy Howell's glove for a single. With two out, the mighty Sakata stepped to the plate.
The second pitch from reliever Reggie Cleveland was a slider, and this time Sakata stood at the plate and watched. The ball landed deep in the left field bleachers for a three-run home run and a 7-2 lead. It was only the second time in Oriole history that a shortstop had hit two homers in a game.
"When I was rounding second, he was only halfway to first," Bumbry said. "If I hit one like that, I'd watch, too."
Shades of Reggie Jackson? "No," said Sakata, "I thought it might go foul. I didn't want to waste the energy."