Jim Norris and Scott McGregor tossed back-to-back five hitters tonight, Norris for the Oakland A's and McGregor for the Baltimore Orioles as the teams split a doubleheader in chilly, breezy Memorial Stadium.
Orioles Manager Earl Weaver maintained, "It was just two more or less dull ball games," but, for fans of the pitching game among the 11,859 at Memorial Stadium, both contests had their moments.
Norris' 6-2 victory in the opener, his first victory of the year after two defeats, came after a rocky first inning in which the Orioles sent eight men to the plate but scored only twice. Cal Ripken ended the inning with a bases-loaded popup, stranding the first three of 11 base runners he would fail to bring home before the doubleheader was over.
But as the game progressed, Norris got stronger. He did not allow a hit after the fourth inning or a base runner after the sixth. Between games, the slender right-hander explained that his screwball, his No. 1 pitch, had deserted him all spring but he recaptured it tonight.
By late in the game, Norris said, the screwball "was breaking from one side of the plate to the other" and he had it under complete control.
The A's, meantime, were rocking Orioles starter Mike Flanagan for eight hits, five runs, five walks and two homers over 6 1/3 innings. It was the third straight disappointing showing for Flanagan, the 1979 Cy Young Award winner and perennial mainstay of the Oriole staff.
The A's tied the game, 2-2, on three hits and two walks in the second, took a 4-2 lead in the fifth on designated hitter Cliff Johnson's two-run homer and made it 5-2 on Dwayne Murphy's solo blast in the seventh, after which Flanagan headed for the showers.
The left-hander blamed his 0-3 start on the Orioles' off-again, on-again schedule, citing seven days off between his first two starts and eight days before this outing. "I'm rusty," he maintained.
McGregor said he didn't feel all that great, either, in going the distance in the Orioles' 5-1 second-game victory. "It was like one of those nights when you're tired but you can't sleep," he said. "I was tired but I kept getting guys out, so I couldn't ask Earl to take me out."
McGregor (1-2) said brisk breezes blowing in helped him to keep pitching aggressively. Twice left fielder John Lowenstein was driven to the wall to fetch A's drives. Lowenstein said later that both hits, one by Mickey Klutts and one by Davey Lopes, were homers that were "gently blown back in."
Lowenstein provided the winning runs for McGregor in the first inning. With Al Bumbry aboard on a single he cracked a heroic drive over the center field wall just to the right of the 406-foot mark to put the Orioles up, 2-0.
The A's scored their only run in the third inning on a couple of singles and a suicide squeeze bunt.
In the Orioles' third, Eddie Murray, who had his 14-game hitting streak broken by Norris when he went zero for four in the first game, launched a high fly that cleared the right field wall near the foul pole to make it 3-1. It was Murray's fifth home run and 16th run batted in of the year.
Lenn Sakata picked up an RBI single in the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly RBI in the sixth to complete the Oriole scoring. Right-hander Matt Keough (2-2) went the distance to take the loss for Oakland.
Of Ripken's poor performance (he popped up twice with the bases loaded), Weaver said, "Yeah, he left 11 guys. But if I want him to knock anybody in I'm going to have to keep playing him. He can't knock them in from the bench." The highly touted rookie was batting .140 before going zero for seven tonight.