Twice a year, the Baltimore Orioles are treated like prize beef being herded into the Kansas City killing pens. Every season, the big, powerful but slow Orioles come into Royals Stadium and meekly offer themselves to the long, sharp knives of the Royals.
Over the last decade, this has become such a ritual that--cowlike--the Orioles have almost ceased to resist. No matter how well they've played before they get here, they submit passively to the indignities foisted on them by the K.C. speedsters. Perhaps the Orioles don't really have to suffer quite as badly as they do; but they think they do, so that's that.
Their misery continued tonight as they lost by an agonizingly narrow 4-3 margin to the Royals and their speed-changing southpaw Larry Gura. At every turn, the Orioles could look back on tiny plays, inches of misfortune, where--were they just a bit nimbler or, perhaps, a bit less prone to defeatism--they easily could have reversed this outcome.
As always, however, they didn't.
"Unfortunately, we have to come here twice a year and play in this park," said Manager Earl Weaver, who, for the first time after a 10-day, nine-game absence returned to his dugout. "We just have to put up with it."
In the 10 years of Royals Stadium's existence, the Orioles have played .618 baseball against the rest of humanity but, in this park, are 19-34 (.358).
"Six-eighteen!" said Weaver. "If it weren't for this bleeping park, I might have had (Joe) McCarthy's record (for the highest managerial winning percentage in history, .615). I'd definitely be ahead of that other guy they snuck in ahead of me a couple of years ago," he added with a laugh, referring to the late Frank Selee, most of whose .598 winning percentage was built in the last century.
"My daughter, my son, my father, my brother-in-law, my nephew and all the people I grew up around in St. Louis have come down here to watch us play over the years," said Weaver. "They must think we're some ballclub 'cause all we do is play games like this one tonight.
". . . My nephew lives here and he won't even come to the park no more."
The nephew is wise.
Those who find the Orioles pleasing should ignore the six debacles here per season which the schedule-maker insists upon. The Orioles are 0-4 here in '82 and have two chances remaining for further humiliation.
The Royals quickly took a 3-0 lead against starter and loser Sammy Stewart, who allowed 10 hits and all four runs in 7 1/3 determined innings. "Sammy was excellent," said Weaver. One particularly haunting run reached base because the sluggish double-play combo of Lenn Sakata and Cal Ripken Jr. couldn't double up catcher Don Slaught.
Baltimore rebutted briefly with a two-run eighth, as Sakata singled, Rick Dempsey doubled and Rich Dauer hit a sacrifice fly. But the Royals added an insurance run in the eighth on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by former Oriole Lee May.
Baltimore managed a run in the ninth as Gura walked Ripken and reliever Dan Quisenberry allowed John Lowenstein a single and Ken Singleton a sacrifice fly. Then Quisenberry got Terry Crowley, who's been stuck at 99 pinch hits for more than a month, on a checked-swing dribbler to the mound off a nasty submarine knuckleball.
That pathetic half-swing seemed an appropriate ending.
The loss was the Orioles' second straight here after seven straight victories elsewhere. They lost no ground in the American League East, remaining 2 1/2 games out of first place as both of the teams ahead of them, Boston and Milwaukee, lost.
Usually, a one-run defeat would have the Orioles grumbling about the nuances of defeat. They'd remember how Ken Singleton's 400-foot double--the longest ball he's hit all season right-handed--struck three feet from the top of the 12-foot wall in deepest right-center. Or they'd bemoan an evening of erratic calls behind the plate by Russ Goetz.
Not tonight. So deep has their Kansas City coma become that they are almost in resigned good humor after they lose here. Their greatest grief tonight seemed to be that the popular Dauer had his major league record of 86 consecutive errorless games in a season at second base broken the previous evening by Philadelphia's Manny Trillo.
"Well," said Mike Flanagan, punster supreme, "it took three guys to break his record."
"You know," said Flanagan, "Manny Trillo."