Manager Earl Weaver stayed up all Tuesday night worrying about his Orioles and tonight, as if in answer, the team did what the boss likes best, producing a three-run homer and a smoothly pitched game for a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Sammy Stewart, making his fourth start of the season, gave up both runs after rain delayed the game 1 hour 21 minutes in the second inning. But the Orioles had already scored three runs on Benny Ayala's homer in the inning and it was all Stewart and reliever Tim Stoddard, who came in in the ninth, needed.
The victory put Baltimore's record at 15-20, exactly what it was after 35 games in 1980 when the team went on to win 100 games.
But the Orioles' problems this year have been agonizing to Weaver and finally kept him awake through "Rockford Files," "Hawaii 5-0," a jar of tomatoes and a lot of cigarettes after Tuesday's 8-7 loss to the Twins, he said.
He has begged all season for a few simple 4-2 or 5-3 victories. Tonight he got one.
Ayala was the first batter up after play was resumed with Ken Singleton on second and Gary Roenicke on first and no outs in the second.
Ayala lofted a curve ball from starter Pete Filson into the seats in left field, but it was foul. Two pitches later, the rookie left-hander came back with the same pitch, according to Ayala, and this one went three rows deep in fair territory to put the Orioles up, 3-0.
It looked like a solid lead for Stewart, who had halted the Twins after walking two men in the first inning. But leads are seldom safe for the Orioles, who have a combined earned run average of almost 4 1/2 per game.
Stewart seemed bent on continuing that trend as he yielded singles to the first three batters after play resumed. But he escaped with a 3-2 lead after two sacrifice flies, then gave up only three hits thereafter. The Orioles scored an insurance run in the third on Rich Dauer's leadoff double and Gary Roenicke's single.
In the ninth inning, after Dave Engle got a leadoff single off Stewart, Stoddard came on to retire three batters and preserve the victory.
Stewart pitched a "good" game, in Weaver's estimation, and Stoddard was "excellent." Weaver added: "And I'll take that every time, the way we've been hitting the ball. Where would we be right now if we got all two-run (pitching) performances? I'll tell you where we'd be. The race would be over."
Indeed, this game looked for awhile as if it would be over before it began. Drenching rains soaked the stadium two hours before game time, but the rain stopped and the first pitch was delivered on time, at 7:35, before 8,088 hardy Memorial Stadium fans.
At 8:02 the deluge resumed and it was almost 9:30 before play resumed. Nary a drop fell the remainder of the muggy, breezeless night.
Filson gave way to reliever Terry Felton after the Orioles scored in the third, and Felton (0-5) stopped the Orioles on one hit the remainder of the way.
"We're making this guy look like Cy Young," moaned an Orioles official. But catcher Rick Dempsey said the haze that hung over the field made the ball hard to see, and Felton had "good stuff."
So, obviously, did Stewart, who replaced Jim Palmer in the starting rotation during Baltimore's just-completed West Coast swing.
Presumably it will all serve to improve Weaver's sleep. At 5 this morning, he said, he gave up trying and went to work in his garden.
Tonight's only Oriole bad news: John Lowenstein's 14-game hitting streak came to a close with a zero for three performance.