With two on and none out in the sixth, Ray Miller, the Orioles pitching coach, hurried to the mound to talk to Jim Palmer, who was making his first start since late April.
"He told me he was gassed out," Miller said. "I told him, 'One more batter.' He said he didn't know if he could do it. I told him he had to, because I was leaving and he was staying."
Palmer took care of that one more batter, right fielder Dwight Evans, and then left to a standing ovation and a 3-0 lead. With two Eddie Murray home runs and a decent relief job from Tim Stoddard, the Orioles ultimately gave him a 6-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox before a happy crowd of 36,269.
Palmer's fine effort couldn't have come at a better time for Baltimore, which had lost three straight and had been trying to patch its starting rotation with young, inexperienced pitchers. Now possibly Palmer can help stabilize things.
At least that is Miller's hope.
"This has been trying for us the last few weeks because we had to patch a staff together," Miller said. "The young kids have pitched well but it puts a lot of pressure on them and us. I know I'm getting a little grayer . . . The biggest thing for Jimmy is to get success under his belt. I look for progressively more each time out, especially with four days rest."
This certainly wasn't Palmer at his best, but it was more than enough to handcuff the Red Sox. It took Boston almost five innings to get a hit off Palmer, who gave up only three even though his curve ball was neutralized by an ingrown nail on his pitching thumb. That left him with a decent fast ball, an effective slider and 18 years of major league experience, which proved to be enough today.
Palmer (2-1) had been placed on the disabled list May 3 with soreness and stiffness in the muscles of his lower back and neck. Then during rehabilitation, he developed tendinitis in the biceps area of his right arm, which kept him sidelined until Wednesday when he pitched three innings of relief against Milwaukee.
"My back felt fine," Palmer said today. "Just because I've been out, I didn't pitch any differently.
...But for me, I had to approach this like spring training. You get loose and then go as long as you can. I hope my arm is all right but the true test will be when I pitch at night. It was easy to get loose in this weather."
At least one player wasn't impressed with Palmer's performance. Mike Brown, the Boston starter who pitched for Marshall High School in Vienna, said he would "be 15-5 if I just put five (innings) in every time out. You get two guys on and you bail out. You are making good money and you do that, well it's pretty bad."
Brown wasn't in the best of spirits since he threw well enough to win except for two bad pitches to Murray, who now has 11 home runs.
The Orioles got a run in the second on two walks, a hit batter and Leo Hernandez's sacrifice fly. Murray, now hitting .305, reached out and touched a Brown fast ball in the fourth and looped it 311 feet down the right field line. That was two feet more than needed to land in the stands. In the fifth, an error by shortstop Ed Jurak on a routine grounder, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and Dan Ford's sacrifice fly made it 3-0, although the Orioles had just one hit.
But Palmer was throwing just as well. He retired the first 10 batters in order and didn't give up a hit until Wade Boggs' leadoff single in the fifth. Jurak also singled in that inning, but poor base running by Boggs led to an inning-ending double play on a fly to Dan Ford, whose throw nipped a wandering Boggs at second.
In the sixth, Gary Allenson singled off Cal Ripken's glove and then Ripken booted a grounder by Jerry Remy. That's when Miller first visited Palmer. After retiring Evans for the first out, Palmer left after throwing 68 pitches. Stoddard took over, a move the fans greeted with sustained booing. Stoddard had been struggling, but after walking Jim Rice (who had hit nine career homers off Palmer), he struck out Tony Armas and got Boggs to ground out weakly to second.
"I didn't pay attention to the booing, fans are fans," said Stoddard, a former short reliever who now is being used in midgame situations. "When I got out of the inning, they were cheering."
Murray's second homer, a rising line drive over the left-center fence, and Ken Singleton double's in the eighth that knocked in two runs increased Baltimore's lead to 6-0. Stoddard finally weakened in the ninth and had to be relieved by Tippy Martinez, after giving up three straight hits that led to all three Boston runs. Still, Miller appreciated Stoddard's performance as much as he did Palmer's.
"Tim's confidence has been shaken, but it has to be helped when the manager gives you the ball in that situation," Miller said. "We were really in a situation where we needed seven innings from Palmer because Timmy was the only (long reliever) one available. Now maybe we can start getting things back to normal."