The Baltimore Orioles did it all tonight.
Everything that has turned the O's from a 100-win-a-year powerhouse into a club that, through 101 games, has actually been outscored by its foes, was on display tonight as the Birds performed one pratfall after another in a hilarious 14-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
The Birds, who managed only three pathetic singles, had a chance to be eliminated from the AL East pennant race tonight, but that mercy killing was prevented when Boston beat Milwaukee, thus keeping the O's alive another tormenting day.
"Yes, we're still alive," said Scott McGregor, who gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning, "but it sure feels like we're being punished for something."
"For weeks it seems like whatever help we need on the scoreboard from other teams, we get it. But then we can't do our part by winning the big game, like the one tonight," said pitcher Mike Flanagan, who starts Wednesday.
The Birds have been tormented for a month with one glorious opportunity after another. And each time, they find a way to lose. The net result is that, more and more, the Orioles don't truly think they deserve to prosper in this particular season. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a whole, the Birds seem more than ready to forget '81 and start fresh in '82.
They certainly played like it tonight, committing three errors, allowing three gopher balls, walking nine Tigers, chipping in a passed ball and a walk, and playing defense as though the object of the game were to come very close to the ball, then, at the last second, contrive to miss it.
Detroit's first scoring drive began after Al Bumbry fumbled a punt at the Oriole 12-yard line. No, no, that can't be right.
Actually, the Tigers, who scored five runs in both the first and sixth innings, leapfrogged back into first place this evening, jumping one-half game ahead of Milwaukee. Starter Jack Morris, now 14-6, moved into a four-way tie for the AL lead in victories by working six one-hit shutout innings. Tiger heroes included home run men Kirk Gibson (a two-run 440-foot upper decker), Tom Brookens and John Wockenfuss, plus mop-up three-inning reliever Dave Rozema.
However, this game reinforced the feeling that no one in the AL East has the inclination to finish first.
"We can still come to Sunday morning and have four teams with a chance to finish first," said Manager Earl Weaver.
"Yeah," said Coach Ray Miller, "and the headline that day should be, 'Who Wants to Win This Thing?'
"We still want to win, and, of course, we're going to try like hell," added Miller, "but after the way we've played the last month, if we ended up in the World Series you'd have to ask yourself if it was real."
This was a vintage night for Bird blunders. The booby prize would go to long-suffering Dan Graham, a genuine part-time star in '80 but, perhaps, the least valuable Oriole of '81. He opened the floodgates with an amateurish error in the first, then completed his night's work with a passed ball, plus a called third strike and two doubleplay grounders.
The goofy low point came when, with the score already 8-0, Rick Leach hit a routine bases-loaded single to center that Bumbry turned into a three-run triple by slipping and falling on his head.
When the Oriole brass is chewing its collective cud over the winter, trying to improve this club that has been outscored by the league, 422-416, despite its decent 56-45 record, the thinkers should reflect on the first-inning disaster that befell the Birds.
First, McGregor fell behind leadoff man Alan Trammell, 3-1, and had to come in with a fast ball that was crushed for a double. Next, swift Gibson beat out a good drag bunt.
Then came what might, even in a 14-0 game, have been a game-changing play. Steve Kemp grounded to first. Trammell, incorrectly, broke for home. Eddie Murray's throw to the plate had Trammell by 10 feet. Graham, a spunky but inexperienced and fundamentally atrocious defensive catcher, overanxiously closed his glove too soon, botching a play any high schooler could have made.
Instead of one out, no score, and men on first and second, a jam that might easily have been escaped by a pitcher of McGregor's caliber, the Tigers led, 1-0, and had men at second and third with none out. Disaster ensued. The low point came with Baltimore behind by just 3-0 and two outs when McGregor walked No. 8 hitter Brookens, who was in a zero-for-28 slump, to load the bases. Lou Whitaker singled home two runs on the next pitch and the horse was out of the barn.
"I don't know whether I can pitch tomorrow of not," deadpanned Flanagan. "I got tendinitis charting this game."