In the fifth inning, when tonight's game was still wondrously scoreless, a bat of the non-baseball variety flitted ominously in front of the visitors dugout. Rick Dempsey of the Orioles took several swings at it. He missed.

So it was to be expected that Dempsey and his teammates lost, 3-0, that Cleveland pitchers John Denny and Bud Anderson pitched a two-hitter, that weak-hitting catcher Ron Hassey of the Indians ruined the fine pitchers duel with a seventh-inning double and that the Orioles lost a chance to gain in the American League East.

The first-place Brewers remained four games up on the Orioles despite losing, 5-4, to the Yankees.

Denny, who has started only three games since July 21 because of a sore shoulder, gave up Jim Dwyer's leadoff double in the first inning and Ken Singleton's single in the third, then left after five innings.

"I could've thrown better but my arm started bothering me and I didn't want to push it," Denny said.

His replacement was almost perfect. Anderson (3-1), who started the season in Charleston, W.Va., said he "had basically only a fast ball," but it was sufficient.

"Bud came in there throwing smoke," Cal Ripken of the Orioles said.

Dennis Martinez (14-11) matched the Indians pitchers the first six innings with a two-hitter of his own. But Mike Hargrove led off the seventh with a double, and when Von Hayes bunted, Hargrove beat catcher Joe Nolan's throw to third. Nolan fielded the ball quickly but had to wait for third baseman Glenn Gulliver to cover the bag.

After Rick Manning lined out, Hassey doubled for a 2-0 lead and, one out later, Alan Bannister singled Hassey home.

Baltimore had its chances. After Dwyer's double, a grounder moved him to third, and when Singleton grounded to second baseman Larry Milbourne, Dwyer tried to score. He was out at home.

The Orioles left the bases loaded in the third when John Lowenstein popped out. The next 18 Orioles batters went down consecutively.

It was the third straight victory for the Indians and their second straight shutout. Indians pitchers hadn't thrown consecutive shutouts since 1976. Cleveland has beaten Baltimore five times in seven games this season.