The Rochester Orioles continued their drive into pennant contention in the American League tonight in Memorial Stadium.
On Sunday, Mike Boddicker pitched a shutout. On Monday, Dan Morogiello got his first major league save. And tonight, Allan Ramirez, just back from AAA, allowed only six hits and one run in eight innings to bring the Baltimore Orioles a 3-1 win over the Oakland A's.
Boddicker, Morogiello and Ramirez are among six Baltimore Orioles who began this season in AAA, five of them with Rochester. Just to show that one famous Oriole was still on the job, Eddie Murray got a game-deciding two-run homer (No. 15) off starter Gorman Heimueller in the eighth for a 3-0 lead.
As if Ramirez' impressive work --his third fine start in three chances--weren't enough for the Orioles, who have won three straight, they got even more vital long-range good news. Tim Stoddard finally made an appearance.
No, not the Stoddard who has moped around the mound all season, cursing his luck instead of himself. This fellow resembled the Stoddard of '80.
He relieved Ramirez in the ninth after a leadoff homer by Rickey Henderson and single by Ricky Peters. The crowd greeted Stoddard with boos.
When Bill Almon hit the first pitch for a double, a vendor with 16,265 blindfolds could have done a land-office business. Orioles' fans, after watching Stoddard lose three games in the 11th inning in a month, had seen enough.
Finally, the phlegmatic Stoddard got mad. Instead of throwing to Rick Dempsey, he looked as if he decided to throw through him.
"Tim got fed up and just reared back and said, 'Here, try to hit this,' " said pitching coach Ray Miller. "The radar gun jumped from 88 mph to 91 and stayed there." For some pitchers, that "extra foot on the fast ball" is the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Davey Lopes struck out. Carney Lansford grounded to third. Dwayne Murphy flied weakly to center. And all three looked overmatched. Suddenly, the boos turned to cheers.
Stoddard (two saves in four months) did a dance as Murphy's fly went skyward, then returned to his gruff exterior as the PA system belted out the rock lyric, "You're the one who can put out the fire."
"When Carney couldn't get around on him, with his quick bat, I figured we had somethin'," said Dempsey.
In his locker, Stoddard found eight roses and a bottle of champagne--from his wife for their eighth wedding anniversary. "She knows she'll get the roses," said Stoddard.
Later, Stoddard added, "I've been getting ripped by everybody but I know the difference between pitching bad and having brutal luck. My arm feels good and I'm throwing as well as I ever have. I just need to get over the hump and maybe I have."
Ramirez' locker was also an odd sight. The Orioles, who now have 45 wins at the season's midpoint, have dragged in a half-size sawed-off locker for him. Ramirez also came up in June for one week, pitched two excellent games against Don Sutton and the Milwaukee Brewers (the Orioles won both), then found himself back in Rochester when Jim Palmer got well.
"I call it my porta-locker," grinned Ramirez, whose repertoire resembles that of Cincinnati's Mario Soto--an unpredictable fast ball, straight changeup and a wrinkle of a slider.
"I just want to make the most of this chance and maybe it'll last longer," said Ramirez, 26, who now has a 1.80 ERA and a 2-0 record in 20 innings.
Ramirez never allowed more than one runner on base and was helped by his own pickoff of Henderson, a peg by Dempsey that got Peters stealing and a 3-6-3 double play by Murray.
Conversely, Heimueller was hurt by two bases-empty walks that scored and an awful play by Almon at short. Two walks around a sacrifice bunt put Orioles at the corners in the fifth; Rich Dauer, hitting .199, tapped a double play ball to short. Almon, instead of flipping to Lopes, took six steps to reach second. Then, ruffled by Todd Cruz' hard slide, he threw wild to first for Oakland's 86th error in 85 games, as a run scored.
This game's sidelight was Heimueller, who flew all night from Tacoma, Wash., for his big league debut when Mike Norris came down with a sore arm on Tuesday. Heimueller was the only pitcher in the A's organization who was rested.
"I could have flown here without a plane," said Heimueller, 27, who was cut by his college team, never drafted, pitched four years of semipro ball for the Alberta Red Deer and was released by the Giants.
"I've been waiting 25 years for this chance and I was going to have fun. It's crossed my mind that I'd never pitch a major league game, but I said I'd keep trying till they tore the uniform off me. I've seen "Rocky" too many times."
Heimueller, just the sort of crafty, soft-tossing left-hander who drives the Orioles daffy, had a night he can tell his grandchildren about. When you're Gorman Heimueller or Allan Ramirez, you take your evenings of major league delight where you find them.