The Orioles haven't had a complete-game victory from a starting pitcher since June 26 and tonight when they had a chance to end that streak, they were smart enough not to.
Jim Palmer pitched eight masterful innings, giving up four hits and striking out eight Oakland A's on the way to a 2-1 Baltimore victory. But when the Orioles came out for the ninth, the tiring Palmer was in the showers and Tippy Martinez was pitching. He set the A's down 1-2-3 with two strikeouts.
On a night Columbia IV astronauts Thomas K. Mattingly II and Henry W. Hartsfield Jr. threw out the first ball before 22,303 Memorial Stadium fans, all the offense came from rockets--homers from Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray and one from Tony Armas of the A's.
Oakland's Matt Keough (7-14) allowed only three hits in pitching the entire game. But it was Palmer's performance in the early innings that proved the difference.
Oriole defensive lapses put men in scoring position in the first and second innings. Both times Palmer worked out of trouble.
Ripken dropped a pop fly along the foul line that would have ended the first inning. His first error since taking over shortstop July 1 left Dan Meyer prancing off second after the two-base error. But Palmer (8-3) got Armas to fly out.
With a man on first in the second inning, second baseman Rich Dauer made a diving grab of Davey Lopes' hard ground ball, but when he rose to his knees to throw to second for the force play he was off course, the ball shooting by Ripken to the third-base box seat railings for a two-base throwing error. With men on second and third, one out, Palmer struck out Jeff Newman and induced Fred Stanley to pop up.
Said Ripken: "We were just testing him.
"After he got us out of those two jams we knew we had a chance to win," Ripken said. As if to confirm it, Ripken hit his 13th homer of the year over the wall in left-center in the second to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
The A's tied it on Armas' drive in the fourth, but Murray secured the Orioles' 10th one-run win of the year by homering deep over the right-field wall in the seventh. It was Murray's 14th homer.
Coach Cal Ripken Sr., who is replacing Earl Weaver as manager during Weaver's one-week suspension for a dispute with an umpire, said Palmer let it be known he was tiring after the seventh and eighth innings.
Palmer was unavailable for comment after the game. Pitching coach Ray Miller said he had advised his pitcher to avoid talking to the press for awhile. "He's an introspective guy," said Miller. "When he has to answer a lot of questions and analyze himself he starts pushing too hard, trying to be great every time he goes out."
Palmer walked only one man--speedster Rickey Henderson in the fifth inning. He promptly picked Henderson off first base. His eight strikeouts were a season high.
Palmer is 6-0 over his last eight starts, dating to May 30. His earned-run average in the seven most recent starts before tonight was 2.40. He is beginning to look to the Orioles like the fellow Miller was begging for earlier in the week--the "stopper."
Oakland Manager Billy Martin, speaking out in support of suspended Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, typed out a formal "defense of managers, players and coaches in this league in regards to altercations with umpires."
Martin, no stranger to umpire wars, took exception to the charge by umpires union chief Richie Phillips that the league was too lenient in suspending Weaver for a week and fining him $2,000 for making contact with umpire Terry Cooney.
"How come Phillips never opens his mouth when the umpire is wrong, and nothing is ever done about it?" Martin asked. "If you listen to Phillips talk, you'd think Terry Cooney was ready to be admitted to a hospital."
"Billy has brought up some good points," said Weaver, out of action until Tuesday.