Baltimore's season-long nemesis--faulty relief pitching--was most obvious tonight as the Chicago White Sox recovered from a 5-0 deficit and defeated the Orioles, 9-5, at Comiskey Park.
The White Sox scored six runs in the seventh inning to take control as Greg Luzinski sent starter Jim Palmer out of the game with a long leadoff home run to center field. Then Tippy Martinez gave up hits to the two batters he faced and Tim Stoddard came on, only to allow two runs to score on a throwing error after fielding a bunt by the first batter he faced.
"All I know is," said disgusted Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver, "that if the pitcher gets them out, we win the game. But if the other team gets some runs after you're up 5-0, well . . . you lose the game."
The loss dropped Baltimore five games behind first-place Milwaukee in the American League East.
Luzinski's homer, his 14th, served as a catalyst for Chicago, which now has won nine of its last 11 games. Twelve of Luzinski's homers have come in White Sox victories and, in a six-run 12th inning against Detroit 2 1/2 weeks ago, he also started the inning with a towering homer.
Luzinski gets paid to do nothing but hit and he knows it picks up his teammates when he does. "No question about it," he said. "There was that feeling in Philadelphia when I came up. The comment was made then that the team only goes as good as I go."
Chicago was trailing, 5-3, when Luzinski came to bat in the seventh. His homer easily cleared the center field fence at the 402-foot sign. And in came Martinez (6-6), whose 56th appearance is the most in the majors this season.
Martinez gave up a bloop single to Steve Kemp and a line-drive single to Carlton Fisk. Those hits brought on Stoddard. Chris Nyman bunted and Stoddard threw wildly to third, allowing both runners to score and giving the White Sox a 6-5 lead. Vance Law then tried to bunt Nyman to third and Stoddard again threw to third, this time with third baseman Glenn Gulliver standing a step in front of the bag, and the tag was too late. Nyman scored when Rodriguez grounded out to second.
Stoddard then walked Rudy Law on four pitches and Tony Bernazard on a full count, loading the bases. On an 0-2 pitch, Harold Baines lined a single to center field, scoring two runs and making it 9-5. When Weaver came to the mound to replace Stoddard, he yanked the ball from his pitcher's hand and turned away without apparently saying a word.
Storm Davis replaced Stoddard and ended the inning, but the damage had been done.
White Sox pitchers also have had a tough couple of days. During a recent winning streak, they had given up fewer than three runs a game. That ended Sunday in Boston, when the Red Sox got 12 runs and 18 hits off four pitchers. Starter Steve Trout didn't retire one of the five men he faced.
This game didn't begin much better.
LaMarr Hoyt, second in the American League in earned run average, 2.98, gave up more than that before he could retire the side.
The Orioles scored three times in the first and twice in the second for a 5-0 lead.
Seven of the first nine Orioles reached base. Two were walked by Hoyt, who had been averaging exactly one walk a game.
Manager Tony LaRussa finally replaced Hoyt in the second after he walked Eddie Murray to load the bases. Another run scored on a passed ball that got by Fisk, but Kevin Hickey got Cal Ripken Jr. to line out to left field. Hickey kept the Orioles scoreless for 5 1/3 innings, giving up four hits, and received the victory. It was Hickey's longest stint in the majors, 3 1/4 innings being his previous endurance record.
The Chicago rally began in the fourth when Rudy Law led off with a single and went to third on Bernazard's single. The Orioles conceded the run when Baines hit into a double play.
The White Sox got to Palmer again in the sixth. Aurelio Rodriguez led off with a double into the left field corner. Rudy Law, hitting .325 since becoming a starter after the All-Star break, singled him home, making it 5-2. Law stole second, his 15th straight stolen base, and scored on Baines' single. But the rally ended with Luzinski, fourth in the league in RBI, at bat when Baines got caught trying to steal second.
Hickey slowed the Orioles through the sixth, although they left two men on in the fourth and wasted two hits in the fifth. Dan Ford led off the fifth with a single, but Joe Nolan's bunt forced him at second. Then Nolan was thrown out by five feet at third when he tried for an extra base on Rich Dauer's ground out to shortstop.