Orioles hitters came to the park today with big grins on their faces. They were looking forward to an afternoon with Indians pitcher Lary Sorensen, sweet feed for the Orioles.
"Ah, a beautiful day for a ball game," said Ken Singleton, who had 10 hits in 16 lifetime at bats against the Cleveland right-hander. "Let's see, Sorensen: sinker, slider, change--up, curve. And he'll give you something to hit."
A fine Oriole day it quickly turned out to be as Baltimore came up with nine hits (including two Singleton doubles) to take a 4-1 lead before dispatching Sorensen in the fourth inning, then went on to get five more hits in an 8-1 rout.
The victory kept the Orioles on track as they chase Milwaukee in the race for the American League East title. Baltimore moved to within three games after the Brewers lost to the Yankees in New York tonight. There are 23 games left.
Left-hander Mike Flanagan (14-10) gave up nine hits on the way to earning his sixth straight victory and his 10th complete game of the season.
But Flanagan's mates never gave him the need to bear down. They jumped on Sorensen, who fell to 10-13 with his fifth straight loss, early and hard.
Singleton's first-inning double went for naught but John Lowenstein doubled in the second and came home on the first of Gary Roenicke's three hits for a 1-0 lead.
Cleveland tied it in the second, but the Orioles went up, 3-1, their next time at bat on singles by Rich Dauer, Al Bumbry and Eddie Murray fitted around the second Singleton double. It was a sleigh ride from there, Baltimore picking up a run in the fourth and two each in the seventh and eighth, led by Murray's three runs batted in.
The victory came despite some of the worst third--base play in baseball memory and a battle between umpire Durwood Merrill and Oriole Manager Earl Weaver that threatened to get Weaver ejected early.
The war of the words came in the second and third innings as Merrill jawed at Weaver from his perch behind the plate, glaring over at the Oriole dugout and occasionally pointing heatedly.
"We get along pretty good," Weaver said later. "I hollered at him on a pitch and he yelled back,' Your're crazy, get your glasses.' I said I'd get mine if he'd get his. Now that's enough to get you tossed out of a lot of games."
The ground war at third base was something else again as the Indians managed three bunt singles down the line and a couple of other gift hits. Orioles starter Glenn Gulliver misplayed the second of the bunts in the second inning, fielding it off balance and throwing high to first. It was inexplicably scored a base hit and beneficiary rick Manning came around to score the only Cleveland run.
In the third, Gulliver let a routine grounder shoot under his gove for a single, and in the next inning Weaver replaced him at third with Rich Dauer, delivering a dugout lesson in infielding to the chastened Gulliver.
But Dauer didn't do any better. He kicked his first chance but recovered to get the out, then erred to start the sixth inning and allowed another routine grounder to get past for a single in the seventh.
When Indian Mike Fischlin booted one at third in the ninth inning, someone asked Weaver if anything was wrong with the infield." I think if you asked Dauer and Fischlin, they'd say Gulliver screwed it up so bad nobody could play it," said Weaver. "That's an old joke," he added.
Flanagan said he didn't feel overpowering, but that his control and his rhythm have responded well to pitching every fourth day. His fast ball, curve and change were "more or less mediocre today," said the left- handler. Of his recent hot streak, he said, "I don't think I'm throwing any better now than I was earlier in the year. It's a matter of luck. They were hitting a lot of line drives, but they were at people. And we're playing well."
The Orioles have had trouble scoring off Cleveland this year, and today's eight-run output was in stark contrast. Is the run drought over? "No," said Weaver bluntly. "This guy pitching Sunday (Rick Sutcliffe, 11-6) is a tough son of a gun. You can look for a good, tight ball game." Jim Palmer will pitch for Baltimore.
The Orioles called up four minor-Leaguers to help the cause in the pennant drive as the AAA Rochester farm team was eliminated from the International League play offs. The four are third baseman Leo Hernandez, infielder Bob Bonner, outfielder Mike Young and right-handed pitcher Don Welchel. All joined the club today except Welchel, who will report Monday.