Nothing braces a team like the sight of young players bringing rookie hunger and talent to an established team. And nothing erodes a team's pennant-race morale like the sight of veterans who seem, finally, to be feeling the effects of age.
That's why the hot, young Baltimore Orioles' 10-4 come-from-behind victory over the aging and perhaps fading California Angels had an overtone of the symbolic tonight on a 96-degree sauna evening in Memorial Stadium. The victory gave Baltimore sole possession of second place in the American League East, two games behind Toronto.
The Orioles' winning streak reached six tonight as their Rochester Red Wing farmhands were the key to victory for the fourth time in six days.
Mike Boddicker, 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA, pitched a determined, veteran-style six-hitter, ignoring four Angel runs in the first three innings as well as a painful finger injury. Boddicker might have wilted on a suffocating evening; instead he retired 17 of the last 18 he faced.
After the third inning the Orioles lanced a deep blood blister under Boddicker's middle finger nail and, thereafter, all the pain was California's as the Angels took their fifth straight loss.
"When his finger gets well, I'm gonna cut it again," said Coach Ray Miller of Boddicker, who pitched a shutout Sunday with a bloody digit.
Even more cheering for the Orioles was the first game-winning hit, and the first two RBI, of Mighty Mike Young's career. The strapping 23-year-old switch-hitter with the raw edges but core of hard talent sent a two-run triple past center fielder Fred Lynn to highlight a five-run sixth inning against Tommy John that turned a 4-1 Baltimore deficit into a 6-4 lead.
"For a moment there, I didn't feel I was part of the team because I wasn't contributing," said Young, who was three for 22 when he came up in the sixth with the Orioles still behind, 4-3.
"I want to do so well, I think sometimes I overdo it. I won't say I haven't had self-doubts . . . but I sat myself down in a corner and said, 'You're up here because this organization thinks you can play. You wouldn't be up here if you weren't good enough.' "
The team's joke is to ask each other, "Has anyone seen Mike Young smile?"
"I guess I'm taking this kind of seriously," said Young sheepishly, smiling at last.
"I'm a big Mike Young fan," said Manager Joe Altobelli. "I've told him that he doesn't give away anything to Don Baylor and Bobby Grich, whom I managed on their way up. Starting tonight, he'll have a lot of fans and a lot of RBI."
"These guys (from Rochester) are what's keepin' us up here (in second place)," said Eddie Murray, who went four for four with a 440-foot homer, a triple, two singles and four RBI. "They're not just filling a spot, they're doing the job."
Murray, who is hitting .312 with 56 RBI, and has had three homers in five games, was asked if his .364 average over the past 23 games meant he was getting hot. Said Murray, "I went zero for four yesterday."
The Orioles' only disquieting news was a torn fingernail that may keep Todd Cruz out of the lineup for several days. Actually, the Orioles were lucky to escape so lightly. Gary Roenicke, who had three hits and two RBI, was almost beaned by 6-foot-7 Mike Witt and a sliding Ken Singleton was drilled from point-blank range by Rick Burleson's pivot throw.
"I thought Kenny got it right in the horn (nose)," said Altobelli.
"I heard the crack and I thought he'd broken my (left) forearm," said Singleton, who stayed in the game and batted again despite a bad bruise.
"My fingers went numb. I thought, 'Here we go again. Now it's the other arm.' Burleson came down pretty low (sidearm), considering the score was 8-4 and I wasn't that near him. I'll remember."
The Angels had much to concern them in the wake of their fifth straight defeat. While the Orioles can take encouragement from the bright promise of players like Cal Ripken Jr., Storm Davis, Boddicker and Young, the Angels must now concern themselves with slumping legends like John and Reggie Jackson.
John, his ERA now 4.44, came apart like a wet paper napkin in the sixth. Ripken singled, Murray unloaded a full-count homer two-thirds of the way up the left field seats into a wind, Roenicke lined a single and Singleton almost tore Rod Carew's glove off with a hit.
Then, after one out, Young hit one of the hardest liners this crowd of 34,249 is likely to see. The ball ate Lynn up in center, getting past his misjudged lunge to the barrier as two runs scored and John headed to the showers. Young scored on a fly by Rick Dempsey.
If John looked bad, Jackson looked worse. He's hitting .213 with 85 strikeouts in 231 at bats and people are beginning to remember how he returned from the AL playoff last October with his face and eyes bandaged, some thought from a postgame fight. Jackson swings like a man who isn't seeing properly; he also played a liner by Dempsey into a triple.
"I've never been this far off for this long," said Jackson.
Even Rod Carew, who has been picking his spots to play to nurse his .400 average for weeks, fell to .397 this evening, dropping below .400 for the first time since April 21st. During the game, he screamed at Boddicker to stop throwing "Little League slop" and afterward said, "I feed my dogs better stuff than Boddicker threw tonight."
Lest the Orioles feel too cocky or the Angels too irritable, Altobelli had a cautionary word: "Just about the time you think you've got this game figured out, it jumps up and bites you in some new place."