Everywhere you looked, the Orioles had a reason to smile tonight.
First, they beat Cleveland -- a team that they've had more than their share of problems with this year -- coming away with a crisp, 5-2 victory. But they couldn't smile too broadly; the Milwaukee Brewers won, too, keeping the Orioles two games back in the American League East race.
Second, they restored to good graces one of the stars of their pitching staff, Scott McGregor, who showed no sign of the arm miseries that have plagued him lately. McGregor gave up only three hits and no runs in seven innings as he earned the victory and improved his record to 14-12.
Third, the entire team gathered around in the locker room immediately after the game to cheer an important event. The players chanted, "Ralph, Ralph, Ralph," until portly trainer Ralph Salvon emerged, shrouded in white robes, and charged up a candy-strewn runway to the official Oriole scales.
Salvon had bet Jim Palmer and Rick Dempsey $100 in spring training that he could lose 40 pounds by Sept. 18. Tonight, at 227, he won the bet by two pounds to the riotous cheers of the players.
They could afford to cheer in this tight pennant race after their fortunes on the field. McGregor had all the runs he needed before the first inning was over. Cleveland starter Bud Anderson walked three straight in the opening inning and John Lowenstein drove two of them home with a wishy-washy double down the right-field line.
Lowenstein's grounder bounced off first baseman Mike Hargrove's glove and into the box seats for a ground-rule double, leaving men at second and third. One out later, Gary Roenicke doubled off the left-field wall and it was 4-0 Orioles.
McGregor, whose arm troubles had limited him to 10 2/3 innings of work since Aug. 15, protected the lead with fervor. He allowed no base runners through three innings. In the fourth, he found himself with two men on base on two singles and strongman Andre Thornton coming to the plate.
McGregor threw three straight balls and things looked bleak for the 23,172 home fans. But Thornton swung at the next offering, popping a meek foul to first baseman Eddie Murray. McGregor then walked his only man of the night and the bases were loaded, but Chris Bando flied out to retire the side. It was the last threat the Indians mounted.
That suited the Orioles fine. They have had little success with Cleveland this season, entering tonight's game with a 4-7 record and not a single victory at Memorial Stadium.
Lowenstein knocked in his third run and gave the Orioles a 5-0 lead in the fifth with a single under Hargrove's glove.
All RBI are record-setters these days for Roenicke and Lowenstein, who are enjoying career years. Lowenstein's three RBI tonight gave him 58 this year, his highest total in 12 major-league seasons.
Roenicke's double in the first was his 24th, raising his RBI total to 69 and his hit total to 99, all career highs.
But of more interest to the pennant-hungry Orioles was the performance by McGregor, who said he had no pain in the shoulder and could have pitched another inning or more if it had been necessary. His stuff, he said happily, "was just my normal, terrible stuff."
"I felt better in the seventh inning than I had earlier," added McGregor. But Manager Earl Weaver, not wanting to take a chance, pulled him in favor of Storm Davis, who lost the shutout with two out in the ninth on Von Hayes' two-run homer.
Davis then struck out pinch-hitter Miguel Dilone on three pitches.
And the Orioles hurried down the runway for the final smile of the night.
In the $100-richer corner, at 227 pounds, trainer Ralph Salvon.