It was the best of both worlds: a pitchers' duel followed by a hitters' duel, and all on national TV to boot.
But after it was over and the Orioles had lost another one-run game, 6-5, to the California Angels, Manager Earl Weaver took a long shower. And even after that, only about half of what he had to say was printable.
"Boy, those are tough blankety-blank ones to lose," he said. "To get back within one blankety-blank run. After all the blankety-blank games we've let get away, and not coming back in the ninth inning once all blankety-blank year."
It was one of those nights. The Orioles hit three balls out of the park for home runs. They had Scott McGregor on the mound, who had won every outing against the Angels the last 12 times he faced them. The Orioles mounted a rally in the eighth inning and another in the ninth, and they had two men on and one out and the top of the order coming up against a pitcher who couldn't find the plate in the final inning.
The pitcher, reliever Bruce Kison, managed to rediscover the plate. He fed strikes to Al Bumbry and rookie Glenn Gulliver. Both jumped on first pitches and the game was over, and Weaver was fuming.
"The most amazing blankety-blank thing in the whole world," said Weaver, "is that we're still just four games out of first place in the loss column. After all the games we've let get away, and the bullpen has, it's almost like somebody wants us to win this thing. It seems like, by July 19, you'd have managed to come back once in the ninth inning."
It all started innocently enough, with McGregor and the Angels' starter, Steve Renko, battling away tooth and nail through the first seven innings.
Renko, who upped his record to 8-2 with his first victory since June 21, yielded bases-empty homers to Cal Ripken Jr. (No. 12) in the fourth inning and Joe Nolan (No. 5) in the sixth.
The Angels took a 3-2 lead into the eighth on Reggie Jackson's towering homer to left-center in the fourth, his 22d of the year, and Bob Boone's two-run homer that just made it into the second row at the left-field corner, barely 309 feet from home, with two out in the seventh.
Then the wheels came off.
McGregor yielded singles to Doug DeCinces and Jackson, putting men at first and third with one out in the eighth. Weaver called on Tim Stoddard. He got Don Baylor to fly to short left, Jackson taking second on the throw home when DeCinces faked an attempt to score.
Stoddard walked Fred Lynn intentionally to fill the bases, then, to Weaver's horror, walked Bobby Grich unintentionally on four straight pitches, forcing in a run.
Tim Foli's seeing-eye grounder under Eddie Murray's outstretched glove scored two more runs and the inning ended mercifully as Grich was thrown out trying to take third on the hit.
That made it 6-2. But the Orioles, who have, indeed, not rallied for a victory in the ninth all year, were not above trying.
Gulliver walked and Ken Singleton sent him to third with a double in the eighth. Both scored on Murray's single to make it 6-4.
Kison relieved Renko and threw one pitch to Ripken, who grounded into an inning-ending double play.
With one out in the ninth, pinch hitter Jim Dwyer hit his fourth homer of the year, into the right-field seats, and hope sprang anew among the 23,146 in Memorial Stadium.
When Kison walked pinch hitter Tery Crowley on four pitches and pinch hitter John Lowenstein on a 3-2 count, things looked better still.
But it wasn't to be.
The loss gave the Orioles an 8-13 record in one-run games, success in such games being a traditional measure of quality teams.
Said Weaver, "You've got to live through this kind of blankety-blank thing to get through a pennant race, and that's the end of that. Now it's on to tomorrow night, and let's hope we can get five runs and our pitchers can hold them to less.
"Three blankety-blank taters (homers). But we just couldn't get nobody on base for 'em."
And that was about all Weaver had to say.