The simple facts are these: Cal Ripken Jr.'s grand slam home run in the fourth inning helped the Orioles win, 6-2, over Oakland tonight before 14,187, extending Baltimore's winning streak to four games and providing Storm Davis (7-4) with a win and Sammy Stewart with his third save.
That's it. The decisive moment, however, demands a closer look.
The Orioles scored a run in the third inning when Gary Roenicke brought home Rich Dauer with a double along the left field line. Davis was pitching well, mixing up his fast ball and slider to keep the A's off balance. Tim Conroy (2-2), on the other hand, was throwing high, inviting pitches and seemed headed for trouble. He found it in the fourth inning.
Benny Ayala walked. Mike Young squared to bunt for a sacrifice. Instead, he took a fast ball on the knee, and when he got to his feet, he took first and Ayala moved to second.
Rick Dempsey bunted along the third base line and Carney Lansford appeared to have Ayala beaten, but threw out Dempsey instead. Todd Cruz walked to load the bases and Dauer fouled out, bringing up Ripken with two outs.
With a 1-1 count, Conroy released a fast ball, low and inside.
"It was a good pitch," Conroy said. "He didn't even hit it well. But he hit it well enough, know what I mean?"
Ripken swung with a sweeping, upward pull and the ball sailed toward the Orioles' bullpen in left center. Rickey Henderson appeared to have a good chance at catching the ball before it cleared the padded green fence.
"It was lucky, that's all," Ripken said. "I haven't been swinging the bat that well lately, haven't been getting the bat head around soon enough. So I thought Henderson was going to get it and my first reaction was, 'Well, here we go again.' But the umpire signaled home run."
The ball cleared Henderson's backhanded target for four runs and a standing ovation.
Conroy eyed the dirt. "It doesn't exactly make you feel real good," he said.
As the crowd stood and cheered, Oakland Manager Steve Boros and Ripken came out of their respective dugouts--Boros to replace Conroy with Dave Beard, Ripken to tip his hat. But Ripken's appearance was reluctant and brief, like a fickle groundhog in February.
Ripken took a quick glance around Memorial Stadium, doffed his cap as though he had never done it before, and beat a quick retreat.
"I didn't think we should get too happy that soon," he explained. "I don't mind celebrating a little if somebody gets a big homer in the eighth inning or something like that, but it was only the fourth. That's a long way to go."
Manager Joe Altobelli, however, showed the delight Ripken must have been concealing: "Any time you get four runs on one poke--well, it may not be a gift from above but it sure is great."
Ripken's only other grand slam as a professional came last year against Mike Morgan of the Yankees Sept. 14. It is the first grand slam for the Orioles this year and Ripken's 14th home run.
"I don't even think I got that many in the minors," he said. "Maybe in Little League, but they don't have fences, so I guess that doesn't count."
The A's scored two runs in the sixth inning on hits by Henderson, Rick Peters, Billy Almon and Lansford. Until then, Davis had pitched beautifully, facing only 17 batters through the first five innings. Stewart came in for the final three innings.
Davis said he was bothered by a split nail on his middle finger. There was blood along the cuticle. "It felt a little funny warming up," he said.
In the eighth inning, Ayala hit his third home run of the year to give Baltimore its final margin.
Altobelli was delighted with Davis' performance, speculating on what the century holds for the 21-year-old.
"He's a very good student," Altobelli said. "I think he's going to win 250 ball games or better in the major leagues unless something unforseen happens."