Left-hander Mike Flanagan carried a 1-5 lifetime record against California into tonight's contest with the Angels. Shortstop Cal Ripken was burdened by a one-for-14 slump.
Baseball is a game of statistics, but the numbers frequently prove misleading, as they did tonight. Flanagan held the potent Angels to two hits over the last six innings and Ripken hit a two-run homer into the left-field seats in the eighth as Baltimore won the battle of division leaders, 4-2.
Flanagan struck out eight in improving his record to 4-0. Forced out of his last start by a pulled left groin muscle after five innings, he kept his groin wrapped tonight, but it gave him no problems.
The only serious trouble of the game was provided by old teammate Doug DeCinces, who was forced to wear a numberless, nameless uniform because his set of No. 11s had been stolen.
DeCinces drove home both California runs with a single in the third and he scared the crowd of 20,837 in the eighth with a long drive to left that curved foul and struck the Orioles Magic banner hanging from the upper deck.
Baltimore, aided by an unearned run, matched the Angels' pair in the bottom of the third. Singles by Leo Hernandez, Rick Dempsey and Dan Ford, the other man in the 1982 trade of DeCinces, made it 2-1.
As Ripken struck out, Ford broke from first and banged into second baseman Rick Adams just as catcher Bob Boone's one-hop throw arrived. Adams was shaken up and the ball skipped into left field, Dempsey trotting home on the error charged to Boone.
While Memorial Stadium was enveloped by windblown showers of light rain, the scoreboard methodically meted out zeroes until the bottom of the eighth. Then Angels southpaw Geoff Zahn dealt a leadoff walk to Ford and Ripken hit a 2-1 pitch over the 360-foot marker in left field.
"It was a slider on the inner half of the plate, the pitch he was getting over when he was behind on the count," Ripken said. "I wasn't waiting for anything in particular. I just wanted to make good contact and I got that one on the fat part of the bat. I had a pretty good idea it was going.
"I had hit some good ones early, but I got caught in a drought on the road trip. Coming out of Seattle one for 15 (a minor exaggeration), I was thinking about slumping. When you're hitting, you don't worry about statistics. But when you're scuffling, you think back to what you did last game. Lately I hadn't been doing much."
Flanagan attributed some of his success to the problem with the groin.
"I had it last year and it slows the whole thing down," he said. "It makes me concentrate and keeps me from rushing. It can cause a strain on the arm, because I can't push off as well as usual, but there was no stiffness or swelling in the arm tonight.
"I was getting my pitches down and away pretty consistently and I just stayed there. I haven't had that many starts against California, so the 1-5 record over eight years didn't bother me. You can't worry about past history. Every time out is a new start."
Flanagan found Reggie Jackson an especially easy zero-for-four mark, to the crowd's delight. Jackson grounded into a double play to close out the third-inning rally and he struck out twice. In the first inning, after a called strike, he asked for time to wipe his glasses. Then he watched two more strikes.
"Reggie's Reggie," Flanagan said. "He's had his hits against me in the past, but tonight I threw him good pitches. It seemed like I was throwing curves when he expected a fast ball and fast balls when he expected a curve."
Rod Carew had two singles to boost his major league-leading average to .471, but he also struck out twice, for a season total of seven.