By the fifth inning, Dennis Martinez was out of the game. And when the time came to ask him what had gone wrong and why he had given up eight hits and six runs before his premature departure, the Baltimore Oriole right-hander was out of sight.
The second Detroit hitter of the night, Enos Cabell, was the first to signal that Martinez's perplexing, season-long slide would continue. Cabell sent a fat pitch over the left field wall for the first of the Tigers' 14 hits. When it was over, they had beaten the Orioles, 9-0, before 26,796 and had moved within one game of Baltimore, the American League Eastern Division leaders.
The Toronto Blue Jays moved into a first-place tie with the Orioles by beating Seattle, 4-2.
Larry Herndon had four hits for the Tigers, only one fewer than the Orioles managed against Dan Petry (7-5) who pitched a complete game. "The Orioles came out smoking in the first (with two hits), and when they didn't score, maybe it took a little something out of them," Petry said.
With Martinez (4-11) faltering and Mike Flanagan still on the disabled list, Baltimore Manager Joe Altobelli did not hide his concern over the pitching situation.
"I'm worried a great deal because Dennis hasn't snapped out of this yet," Altobelli said. "I don't know what we can do to get him some confidence. We've tried all avenues, everything. I don't know what the hell else to do, really. We've looked at films and we've corrected a few technical things, but there's just so much you can do."
Martinez was fortunate to escape the first inning behind only 3-0. He induced Lou Whitaker to pop up to shortstop, but yielded hits in succession to Cabell, Lance Parrish, Herndon and Glenn Wilson. Had Parrish not been thrown out stealing and Wilson been caught trying to extend a single, the scoring might have been more embarrassing.
In the second and third innings, Martinez appeared in better control, but in the fourth the Tigers scored three more runs, two on Chet Lemon's home run.
"I don't know what it was with Martinez," Lemon said. "To tell you the truth, he threw pretty tough against me."
Although Martinez was clearly throwing inviting pitches, Altobelli let him face all eight batters in the fourth inning. Finally, the manager's patience expired.
"I've got to get him some confidence," Altobelli said. "I let him stay in there that long to give him a little confidence. He needs it to get going."
Ken Singleton, who has had difficulties of his own this season, said of Martinez: "I think he has to keep at it. It's just like a hitter being in a slump. It's just a different facet of the game.
"He has to get mad at himself and bear down a little. He seems to have the velocity; he's just getting too much of the plate."
Martinez is the first major league pitcher to lose 11 games this season.
Sammy Stewart replaced Martinez in the fifth and gave up three more runs, two earned. But with the Orioles hitting poorly and even playing some uncharacteristically sloppy ball, the result by then was academic.
The Orioles' performance on the field was not their only worry. Outfielder Dan Ford has been placed on the 21-day disabled list with torn cartilage in his left knee. He first injured the knee against the Twins June 1. He has played intermittently since then, but doctors have decided he requires arthroscopic surgery and he is likely to miss at least a month of play. Ford had been hitting .281 with five home runs and 31 RBI, although he had hit only .156 in his last 19 games.
His replacement is Mike Young, the Orioles' top draft choice in 1980 who was hitting .263 with Rochester in the International League. Jim Dwyer started in right field against the Tigers.
Also, catcher Joe Nolan moved to the 15-day supplementary disabled list. He suffered a toe fracture after being hit by a pitch Sunday against the Red Sox. His replacement, John Stefero, started and got his first major league hit in the eighth inning after some jitters earlier on.
"It felt good. I didn't hit it good, but it felt good," said Stefero, who had been hitting .312 in Class AA Charlotte. "My whole family was out there. The first time up, I was way out in front of everything. I think I was pretty nervous.
"The manager said I'd probably be starting against the right-handers that (Rick) Dempsey has trouble with, just like Nolan did.
Altobelli said Stefero "did a nice job behind the plate," but with the race getting so hot so early, just as key injuries and one crucial slump are taking a toll, there was little enthusiasm in his voice.
"When things go wrong, they go wrong," he said.