It's extremely difficult for a major-league team to accummulate four walks, four doubles, three singles, a stolen base, a two-base error and a 400-foot home run, yet manage to score only two runs.
The Baltimore Orioles, stranding runners in scoring position in six innings, managed the trick tonight as they--in effect--helped end their own seven-game winning streak with a 7-2 loss to Kansas City before 36,217 in Royals Stadium.
"We hit the ball all over the park, and they scored the runs," said Manager Earl Weaver, who once again voluntarily exiled himself from the dugout in deference to superstition.
"I'll be back in the dugout Friday, more than likely. We were 6-2 with this (absentee manager) system," said Weaver, whose team was 5-1 while he was really suspended and 1-1 when he was just faking it. "Don't wanna change it too much. Maybe we'll start another secret system. I'll sit on the bench, but we'll relay all the communications, like we've been doing."
The Royals knocked out starter and loser Dennis Martinez (10-9) with a four-run second inning built around Willie Aikens' two-run homer and an RBI triple by Frank White. "I felt real good tonight," said Martinez, "that's what makes me so mad. I can't understand it."
Reliever Storm Davis then worked 5 1/3 scorless innings before the Royals reached him for three runs with two out in the seventh. Kansas City rookie Derek Botelho went five shaky innings and got the victory with three innings of relief help from Mike Armstrong and one from Dan Quisenberry.
Weaver, once again, did his managing by walkie-talkie from the clubhouse. Wherever his decisions were made, they aided and abetted this loss.
With two on and two out in the seventh, the Orioles trailing only 4-2, Weaver let Davis, at 20 the youngest player in the majors, pitch to Hal McRae, the majors' RBI leader, even though Tim Stoddard was warm.
More pertinent, Davis already had worked the second longest stint of his big-league career and had been hit progressively harder for two innings. McRae hit a two-run double for RBI No. 90 and 91, the ball hitting the left field wall inches beyond John Lowenstein's lunge. That made it 6-2. Davis then had to work to Willie Aikens, because no left-hander was warming up; Aikens singled home McRae.
With the horse out of the barn, Stoddard arrived.
Weaver, however, bore far less blame than a plethora of Orioles hitters who accounted for 12 outs with men in scoring position. Ken Singleton led the way, stranding five men, four in scoring position.
Every time the Orioles step into Royals Stadium, they feel like the protagonist does in the movie "Tron" as he falls into a fourth-dimension pinball machine. The hero must fight for his life, but he doesn't know the rules of the game.
When the Orioles get to this lightning-turfed, distant-fenced habitat where routine fly balls take 20-foot-high bounces, infielders play 160 feet from the plate and every ground ball comes equipped with afterburners, they look like some sluggish, shell-shocked 1890s team trapped in a 21st century hybrid of jai-lai and human skittle pool.
"Baseball here is like playing with a golf ball in a bath tub," said pitcher Mike Flanagan with a snort. "I tell our fielders, 'Wherever you think you should play, take one more step, 'cause in this park we're always wrong.' "
When Weaver sits in his dugout before games, he glares at the park as though the devil had invented it purely for his torment. Absolutely every tactical notion that Weaver holds dear is given the lie by this stadium where the Birds are 19-33 since 1973. Except, perhaps, for the waterfalls and the gaudy scoreboard, there's nothing in sight that Weaver wouldn't like to dynamite in the night.
"I don't believe much in the 'home field advantage' in baseball, until you get to (pause) someplace like this," said Weaver. "Only a non-baseball person would think this park doesn't make a difference, especially when one team is built for power, not for speed, and the other team has a lot of speed.
"I love it if we could get outta here with a (2-2) split, lose nothin' in the standings and, especially, keep the pitching staff intact. We got 13 games in the next 11 days and nine of 'em are with these guys (the Royals). All I got on my mind is getting to Aug. 8 in one piece. Then, we can take a deep breath, pack a big suitcase (for a 14-day trip) and see what happens. And I mean a biiiiig suitcase."
In the second inning, the Royals--with their major league-leading .290 team batting average--produced a rally that helps explain their .691 winning percentage at home this season.
In that frame, a liner ticked off shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.'s glove for a hit. A chop over the mound bamboozled Lenn Sakata, who played it into a hit. A liner that would have been a single in Baltimore went to the wall for a triple. A skidding grounder got through short by inches. And a one-hopper almost undressed Rich Dauer at third for another infield hit.
At every turn, the Orioles either looked slow, disoriented or just comedic.
"Every time the Orioles come here, they look shell-shocked," said Royals front office official Bill (Boomer) Beck, "and when we go to Baltimore (where the Royals are 24-52), they longball us to death and our hard ground balls are just outs . . . These are two teams of roughly equal ability which play two different sports."
Aside from Gary Roenicke's bases-empty homer, his 17th, in the third, the only other way the Orioles could score was on a gift. Lowenstein singled and stole second. With two out, Joe Nolan lined to first to Aikens, who nonchalanted the catch and dropped the ball. Everybody forgot to run. When Armstrong, Nolan and Aikens' underhanded toss arrived at first base simultaneously, Armstrong missed the ball completely. In the confusion, Lowenstein, who also had frozen, scored as third baseman George Brett forgot to cover the plate until it was too late.
For that one play, the Royals looked just the way the Orioles almost always look when they come to Kansas City.