The cold-blooded inhabitants of Memorial Stadium stopped griping about the weather tonight. They found another reason for complaint: the first-place Baltimore Orioles.
Committing four official errors and numerous other faux pas that were technically excused, the Orioles were thrashed by the Texas Rangers, 11-2.
Mickey Rivers had four hits as Texas amassed 16 against three Baltimore pitchers. Those hits, however, were only part of a sad story that saw the Orioles yield nine unearned runs, seven in the third inning.
"I don't want to see another like that; I don't think any of us do," said Manager Joe Altobelli. "It was one of those games. I talked to certain players individually about certain plays, but mostly I'd just like to forget it."
Dennis Martinez, the Orioles' starter, was charged with six runs, none earned, in 2 1/3 innings. If his teammates were not his worst enemies, he deserved that designation himself, for an off-target throw on an apparent double-play ball that could have cut off the big third inning with one score.
Instead, 12 Rangers batted against Martinez and reliever Don Welchel, and by the time it was over Texas was enjoying an 8-2 lead and had equaled its total run production in the previous five games, of which it won one.
Eddie Murray's homer and an RBI single by Leo Hernandez in the second inning had given the Orioles a 2-1 lead, after Texas scored first on shortstop Cal Ripken's error and an RBI double by onetime Washington Senator Larry Biittner.
First baseman Murray began the forgettable third by first bobbling Rivers' grounder and then throwing low past Martinez for a two-base error. Rivers scored on a one-out single by Billy Sample, the James Madison University product who later hit his second homer of the season.
Biittner singled Sample to third before Buddy Bell put the potential double play in Martinez's hands. The pitcher's throw nosedived into the ground near second base and Ripken, who scooped the ball as he crossed the bag, lost control. Sample scored on the error and Texas was ahead to stay.
"I looked to second and nobody was there, so I held up on my throw," Martinez explained.
"Sometimes there isn't anybody there because they're moving," Altobelli said. "If you throw over the bag, somebody may get there. Dennis buried himself when he didn't make that double play."
Biittner scored on Pete O'Brien's opposite-field double to left and Martinez was through for the night. The Orioles' Keystone Kops routine still had several acts remaining, however.
O'Brien scored on Jim Sundberg's single, then George Wright hit a high bouncer toward third. Hernandez, the third baseman, lost it in the lights and Wright was credited with a hit, a most unpopular ruling with many of the 6,947 paying customers.
Rivers beat out a slow roller to Hernandez, filling the bases. Then Richardt sent a pop fly into short right that right fielder Dan Ford expected second baseman Rich Dauer to catch. The fans expected somebody to grab it, but Dauer couldn't get there and Ford's late sprint proved futile. It fell for a two-run single and the runs, although technically unearned, were charged as earned to Welchel's record under the relievers' responsibility rule.
There were derisive cheers when Ford caught Sample's fly ball to end the inning and they continued through each Texas out in the fourth.
The Orioles graciously provided an encore in the seventh. With two out, Wright's roller toward first base twisted from foul to fair and Murray dropped catcher Rick Dempsey's on-time throw for his second error. Bucky Dent's single advanced Wright, who scored when Rivers' pop fly to left went uncaught by Ripken, who waved his glove uncertainly while his back was to the plate.
Beneficiary of the Orioles' generosity was right-hander Snuffy Smithson, a 6-foot-8 former University of Tennessee basketball player once drafted by the Boston Celtics. He went the route while pitching from a stretch all night to compensate for a crick in his neck.