That "Cy Future" the Orioles have been talking about the last few years, left-hander Scott McGregor, may well have arrived. He began to turn his season around May 28 at Royals Stadium, and at the same site tonight McGregor registered his 16th victory, 9-2.
A first-inning home run by Cal Ripken and a ninth-inning grand slam by John Shelby, first of his career and his first home run left-handed, helped make the 95-degree night a breeze for McGregor, who is 12-2 since a 1-0 victory over the Royals on May 28.
"It was a big win for me here earlier, but I was pitching good sometimes before that," McGregor said after stopping the Royals on just 84 pitches and fixing his record at 16-5 with a 3.07 earned run average.
"I think the biggest thing for me, though, came when we lost (Jim) Palmer and (Mike) Flanagan with injuries. I had to think about who I am with this club. I've never been one for all this press and being No. 1. It's been easy to stay in the background here, hide behind the Cy Youngs and be satisfied that they called me Cy Future.
"Well, I didn't try to take up for them, because you can't, but I did have to become a leader. It's like back in high school when I was the best player on the team (one that included George Brett at El Segundo, Calif.,) and would take charge. In the past if I didn't pitch well, it was easy to just think the others would pick me up.
"This year I got rid of that lazy attitude."
He had a quick 4-0 lead after just 13 Orioles batters had faced the elder statesman of major-league players, Gaylord Perry, 44. McGregor worked fluidly until a home run by Leon Roberts in the fifth inning.
"Being very honest, the Royals are in the worst slump I've seen them in during my seven years," McGregor said. "We're hot (six in a row) and they're cold. It's important for us just to keep our heads clear and not think too much about the pennant race from here on out."
The Orioles boosted their lead over Milwaukee, which lost to Seattle, 2-1, tonight, to 2 1/2 games.
The Orioles' home runs put them in the league lead with 131, one more than New York. Shelby's capped the night after reliever Keith Creel had shut the Orioles down for 6 1/3 innings as the lead was halved to 4-2.
Dan Ford's three hits, two runs batted in and two runs scored also pumped life into an offense that jumped Perry for eight hits inside of two innings. After Ford's triple with one out in the first Ripken's home run started the Orioles winging, and McGregor made it stick.
"My concentration gets better every year," McGregor said. "I've felt like I'm good for years, but this is the best string of wins I've put together." His 94th career victory evened his all-time record at 5-5 against the Royals, a team he hasn't dominated often before this season.
Hal McRae reached base for the Royals leading off the second (single) and fifth (walk), then each time was eliminated on double plays around the horn, started by third baseman Todd Cruz on balls sharply hit by Royals third baseman and runs batted in leader Brett.
Roberts' eighth home interrupted the flow momentarily, and a three-single rally touched McGregor for a run late.
The approximate 420-foot home run by Ripken pushed his totals to 20 home runs and 80 runs batted in, best among shortstops in the majors.
Four consecutive hits after two outs in the second provided cushy work space, 4-0, and sent Perry hiking to the clubhouse.
Perry had created a two-out jam in the first, too, with singles by John Lowenstein and Ken Singleton, but then struck out Rich Dauer.
Appearing to have settled into the groove that made him very effective his previous four starts (2-0 record, 2.10 earned run average), Perry got Rick Dempsey and Cruz on feeble flies starting the second inning. Then, in rapid fashion: Al Bumbry's long triple, a scoring single by Ford, a single by Ripken and a scoring single by Eddie Murray.
Meanwhile, Keith Creel quieted the Orioles' bats that had burst from the throes of a 19-game, .218 slump with 37 hits in a sweep of the Minnesota Twins before coming to Kansas City. Temporarily quieted, that is.
Singles by Cruz and Dempsey started the ninth inning. Dempsey crashed into second baseman Frank White (injuring White's left shoulder) and was charged with interference on Bumbry's grounder, keeping Cruz at third. Ford's third hit, second RBI single, upped the ante by one.
Then one stroke by Shelby, who had entered as a pinch runner for Lowenstein in the seventh, stunned what was left of a crowd of 20,367.