All spring Mike Flanagan felt great and pitched terribly. Finally, he felt a little less well tonight and pitched a game just short of a masterpiece.
Flanagan, favoring a pulled groin muscle, pitched a poor man's perfect game, in which he walked one and gave up three hits. But with some fine fielding and a little luck, he faced the minimum number of batters for a nine-inning game, 27.
With Rich Dauer's two-run homer in the first inning and Gary Roenicke's three-run homer in the eighth, it all added up to a 6-0, 97-pitch, 2 hour 21 minute joy ride before 9,241 at Memorial Stadium.
The joy ride was marred briefly when Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. was beaned by a fast ball thrown by Mike Moore in the fifth inning. Ripken went down as the ball hit his helmet with a sickening crack, but was back on his feet within seconds; X-rays later revealed no damage.
The victory, coupled with Sunday's defeat of the Angels, marked only the second time the struggling Orioles have won back-to-back games this season.
Flanagan, who was 0-3 with a 6.98 earned run average before tonight, said he pulled the groin muscle two days ago warming up. He said the injury bothered him some tonight, but may have helped by slowing him down and forcing him out of a tendency to overthrow the ball.
"In my other starts I felt too strong" after eight or nine days rest, Flanagan said. "I was overthrowing." But tonight, after only four days rest and with the muscle pull to contend with, "I just tried to slow it down, be smooth and make the good pitches. I had control with the fast ball and I was getting ahead of the hitters with that."
The one walk he gave up was in stark contrast to the 16 in his previous 19 1/3 innings.
It was almost eerie the way the few Seattle base runners were erased.
Flanagan walked Dave Henderson in the second inning and immediately picked him off first. Jim Essian singled into the gap in right-center in the third, but Al Bumbry cut off the ball neatly and threw out Essian at second as he tried to stretch the hit into a double.
Henderson singled in the fifth, but was erased on a neat third-short-first double play on the next batter. Henderson singled again in the eighth and was replaced by pinch runner Joe Simpson.
Simpson, thinking there were two out, ran all the way to third base on Al Cowens' fly out seconds later. There was one out, and Simpson was doubled off first base.
Dauer's home run, his second of the year, came on an inside fast ball in the first inning with Bumbry on base. Dauer knew it was an inside fast ball, he said, "because that's the only pitch I can hit out of here."
The Orioles added a run in the fifth on Dauer's RBI single and finished it off in the eighth when Roenicke sent a sharp liner into the left field seats with Dauer and Ken Singleton on base. It was his fifth home run of the year, tying him for the team lead with Eddie Murray.
Ripken left the game after the beaning for X-rays, but was back in the Orioles' happy clubhouse when his mates arrived at game's end. Trying to make light of the incident, someone commented that Ripken had managed to advance the base runners when he was hit by the pitch.
"Yup," said the rookie, who is struggling at the plate. "When you're going good, things just seem to fall into place."
There was an audible gasp from the stands when the fast ball, clocked by the Orioles at 89 mph, caromed off Ripken's helmet. The helmet was on display in the locker room after the game with a baseball-sized hole in it where the ball had caved in the plastic.
Flanagan said in his troubled spring he never lost faith that he would rebound. He said arm pain that troubled him the last two years is gone, "and even when I had my bad outings, I said as long as my arm doesn't get sore, it'll come around."