Like the lone, homely pigeon that circled the field oblivious to the other Birds hard at work around him, the Orioles (7-13) have been traveling in fits and starts this season.
Today, however, they beat the California Angels, 6-4, as Scott McGregor gave up 10 hits and provided what Manager Earl Weaver described as "a real gutsy performance." Perhaps winning two of three from the Western Division leaders will send the Orioles soaring again.
The pigeon arrived in the top of the seventh, and just in time. The Angels had scored a run (their last) and had a runner at second with one out. "I came up in the stretch and looked at second (where the bird had landed) and started laughing," said McGregor, who got out of the inning without further ado. "I had to step off. They were threatening. It kind of loosened things up."
The 27,128 paying customers who came for Cap Day applauded the bird more loudly than they did the Birds. Of course, if they had been generous, they would have given Angel Manager Gene Mauch a hand.
He grounded his three Angels, Reggie Jackson, Fred Lynn, and Rod Carew, MVPs and lefties all. He said it had nothing to do with there being a left-hander on the mound. "Veteran players appreciate a day off after a night game," he said. "I'd like to sign a contract before I come here that we would get four runs off McGregor and (Jim) Palmer and still lose both games."
McGregor certainly wasn't grumbling after his 10th straight victory over California. "Gene tried everything," he said. "He took everybody out . . . The way Reggie and I are going--he's leaving town, he won't see the papers--I've gotten him out (Jackson is .238 lifetime against McGregor with 14 strikeouts). I was not surprised he was out of the lineup. I was surprised the others were."
Like the Orioles of '82, McGregor struggled early. California took a 3-1 lead in the second on singles by Doug DeCinces, Joe Ferguson and Ron Jackson, and Bob Boone's double down the left field line. Only two of the hits McGregor allowed went for extra bases: both were doubles by Boone, who drove in three of the Angels' runs.
"He (McGregor) wasn't really impressive until about the sixth inning," catcher Rick Dempsey said. "That's when the changeup started to move good."
The Orioles tied the game at 3 in the second. Dan Ford, who came into the game hitting .171, had the first of his two hits, a bunt single down the third base line. Dempsey walked, and Cal Ripken Jr., who had two bloop hits today, broke his bat and his slump with a two-run single just over the shortstop's head.
"Dropped in--that's what they did," Weaver said.
"The kind that makes a hitter feel real good and a pitcher feel bad," Ripken said.
In the third, Ken Singleton, another slumper (he was one for four today with an RBI), led off with a walk off losing pitcher Angel Moreno. Eddie Murray blooped a double down the left field line that was hit hard enough to knock Moreno out of the game, but not far enough to send Singleton home.
With two outs and right-hander Steve Renko the new pitcher, Dempsey went to the plate, reincarnated as a left-handed hitter. Renko fell behind on the count, 2-0, and Dempsey swung mightily. The result was a liner so soft it must have caught the first baseman, Jackson, off guard, because he botched it. Singleton scored as the ball trickled behind first, putting the Orioles ahead, 4-3.
As victories go, it was as homely as a pigeon. "The kind we usually play," Singleton said.
McGregor agreed. "We're not proud."