What's more fun than a doubleheader split on a windy, frigid day in April?
What's more scintillating than sitting in Memorial Stadium for more than six hours in the near-freezing chill factor of dusk, watching the Baltimore Orioles lose the second game of a twin bill to the Cleveland Indians, 7-4, thereby erasing the effect of their 2-0 victory in the opener?
What's a bigger thrill, if you're an Oriole, than watching your leading winner of 1982, Dennis Martinez, squander a chance for a momentum-gaining sweep by getting shelled in a hurry and losing to a young southpaw, Neal Heaton, who had never won a major league game?
And if you're an Indians fan, what brings a smile to the face more quickly than news that your all-star third baseman, Toby Harrah, has a "nondisplaced fracture of the left hand" after being hit by a Martinez pitch, and probably will be out a month to six weeks?
Actually, it's not nearly as much fun as being stuck in traffic for almost an hour on the "construction-for-the-next-5.4-miles" Baltimore-Washington Parkway. (For the rest of this Baltimore home stand, fans from Washington should take I-95, advised Oriole officials.)
During this evening's nightcap--or snowcap--Orioles General Manager Hank Peters, shivering like the rest of the scant remains of a crowd of 16,016, summed up this long, indeterminant day by saying, "We ought to give medals to the fans who are left."
The first half of this day's baseball was the sort to cheer Oriole partisans. A bright sun shown on the opener, mitigating the effects of temperatures around 50 and winds around 20 mph. When Jim Palmer, Storm Davis and Tippy Martinez combined for a wild, nine-hit shutout, stranding 11 Indians runners, the crowd in the sun seats exalted, wondering if, per chance, this was the spring when the Orioles finally would get off to a hot start.
In that first game, Palmer went five innings in his first start of the season, threw 77 relatively pain-free pitches and gained his 264th major league victory. Manager Joe Altobelli relieved Palmer before any hint of trouble or pain arose--just the way Palmer wishes Earl Weaver always had.
"I hardly threw any breaking balls . . . You try to get the first guy out, don't walk anybody. I learned that from Earl," said Palmer, sardonically.
Cleveland's starter, Lary Sorensen, lost his ninth straight game over two seasons because he couldn't follow that dictum. In the second and third innings, he sinned by walking the leadoff Oriole. Both scored for the game's only runs. Rich Dauer singled home the first run in the second, while John Lowenstein's long sacrifice fly plated the second in the third.
Palmer, who's now talking to the press in-season again, added that his stiff lower back, which caused him to miss his first two starts, was "still a little bit sore. It tightened up in the third." All in all, Palmer believes, his "quadrous laboram . . . the largest muscle that goes over the right hip," is doing nicely and should not prevent him from making appearances in the near future.
After Palmer's departure, Davis got seven outs in long relief, while Martinez got the save with five outs of door-slamming. In fact, in the eighth, Davis and Martinez struck out the side with the bases loaded; Davis got red-hot Andre Thornton looking at a hard hook, while Martinez struck out George Vukovich and Manny Trillo.
For Martinez, who entered with the count 2-2 on Vukovich, it was a sweet save. Last Saturday in Cleveland, that same Vukovich broke up a one-run game, hitting the only grand slam homer Martinez ever has allowed. Yesterday, Martinez equaled a major league record that may be tied again, but that will never be broken; he was credited with two strikeouts in an inning in which he threw only four pitches. "I redeemed myself today," he said.
Dennis Martinez had no such luck. For the umpteenth time in his perplexing career, Martinez took the mound with plenty of rest, plenty of stuff and ideal pitching conditions--an inward, left-to-right wind so strong that four or five potential home run balls never even reached the warning track. To boot, the weak-hitting Indians, minus Harrah, present one of baseball's meekest lineups.
Yet, Martinez, who had an early, 2-1 lead, got crushed, allowing eight hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings as the Orioles, who were in first place for a couple of hours, dropped back to their customary April plateau--.500 (4-4).
"It looked like we had a good chance for a sweep that might get us going, but you'd have to say that Dennis pitched rather poorly," said Peters, icily.
"He's our warm-weather pitcher," defended Manager Joe Altobelli.
"When he has more than four days of rest, Dennis just doesn't have command of his pitches within the strike zone," said Coach Ray Miller. "He has stuff, but not pinpoint control, and he makes a lot of real bad pitches. So far, with the stupid schedule in this league and the rainouts, he's pitched three times, with five, six and five days rest."
Cleveland's second-game victory was built around Harrah's injury. His replacement--flashy rookie Julio Franco--had a single, stolen base and run scored in the third, then followed that with a game-deciding three-run double to right-center to knock out Martinez and break a 2-2 tie in the fourth. Dan Ford couldn't quite reach the wind-blown smash.
It was an ill wind this day. The Indians never hit a ball that would have threatened a fence on a calm day. The Orioles, who had scored 49 runs and batted .333 in their previous five games--their biggest five-game run total in the last decade--saw six drives, which might have been off or over fences on other days, end up in gloves in the second game.
"You have to play the elements," said Altobelli, buying none of it. "When the wind's blowing in, hit line drives. It's hard, but this is the majors."
The Orioles did manage an RBI double from Ford and a sacrifice fly from Cal Ripken off Heaton in the third inning. In the seventh, Leo Hernandez tripled in a run and scored when the relay throw to third was wild. That cut the Cleveland lead to 5-4. However, the Indians got a double form Rick Manning, an RBI single from Chris Bando and an RBI double from Miguel Dilone for two runs in the eighth.
All those hits were by lefties off righty Don Welchel, who had worked four innings of long relief before tiring. "Welchel was throwing real well. I won't second-guess myself for leaving him in," said Altobelli. Some others might.
On the other hand, Altobelli's unconventional hunch decision to replace Davis in mid-batter--with that 2-2 count on Vukovich--certainly helped win the opener. Sometimes managers get a split, too.