Before the largest regular-season crowd in the history of the new Yankee Stadium, the Baltimore Orioles enacted their own real-life version of the movie "Escape From New York" this evening. They came from behind twice in the late innings and swept a twinight doubleheader from the benumbed New York Yankees and their 55,605 nearly mute fans, 8-4, 3-1.
For the Orioles, this was a night when everything went perfectly. They blasted the pin stripes off Goose Gossage in the opener, scoring six runs while the Yankee monster was on the mound in the ninth inning to rip open a tie game. Then, in the nightcap, marvelous Oriole rookie Mike Boddicker preyed on the overanxious Yanks, making them look foolish with his tantalizing breaking pitches as he won his 13th game. For panache, former Yankee Tippy Martinez got the closing outs of both games.
When John Lowenstein wasn't crushing a 420-foot grand slam home run off Gossage to ice the first game, Joe Nolan was fouling off five straight 0-2 pitches from the Goose before getting the game-winning single. When the Yankees weren't throwing wildly or dropping fly balls or forgetting to step on bases--there were four New York errors in all--then the poor Bronx lads were having the most atrocious luck as pop fly hits fell untouched and those nasty umpires seemed not to love them anymore.
The Orioles, who came here hoping to escape with two victories in this four-game series, got their wish this long evening. Now, should the Orioles find a way to win Sunday afternoon's show closer between their Mike Flanagan and Dave (Rags) Righetti, the bedraggled Bombers might be a dead issue in this American League East race.
When, after midnight, the Yankees played their booming postgame PA version of Frank Sinatra singing, "New York, New York," the stands were already more than half empty and the lyrics didn't seem quite so cocky, nor the beat so brash.
The Orioles won the first game in the most shocking fashion, battering Gossage as though he were a batting practice pitcher. When the Orioles arrived here Friday, they were greeted by tabloid quotes from Gossage about how it was time for the Yankees to sweep all four games and "start kicking some rear ends."
"Goose said he was looking for a sweep, but sometimes you look too hard," said Baltimore's Sammy Stewart mischievously after winning the opener with 3 1/3 strong frames of middle-inning relief.
This was a bleak night for embattled Billy Martin. He made a half-dozen moves that could easily be second-guessed and every one of them blew up in the most embarrassing fashion.
With the score tied, 2-2, in the ninth inning of the opener and a man on second with one out, Martin waved out starter Shane Rawley and called for Gossage, who has had a checkered year.
Gossage's first act was to try to quick pitch. When the umpire warned him, Gossage groused and got chewed out by the man in blue.
Rick Dempsey took three perilously close two-strike pitches and drew an umpire-aided pass. Next, pinch hitter Nolan, sent up because Orioles Manager Joe Altobelli remembered a game-winning homer by Nolan off Gossage here last season, fought off five of Gossage's nastiest 0-2 pitches. Finally, he lashed a line single to center to break the tie. And, perhaps, Gossage's heart.
Cal Ripken doubled to right for one run and Martin, on a role in reverse, ordered Eddie Murray walked. Naturally, Lowenstein hit the second pitch he saw halfway to the Triboro Bridge for his grand slam. That blow made two Yankee runs in the ninth a matter of no significance.
That six-run ninth changed the competitive chemistry between these clubs. The nightcap seemed an emotional continuation of the opener as the crowd sat on its hands as though they were at a Yankee wake. In time, this may indeed come to be seen as the night of the '83 Yankees' demise. Certainly, Baltimore could not possibly have had its confidence more forcefully redoubled. The Orioles have won 22 of their last 28 games and lead second-place Detroit by 5 1/2 games and Milwaukee by 6 1/2.
In the nightcap, the speed-changing Boddiker (13-7) allowed six hits in seven innings. Against a lineup of seven left-handed Yankee hitters, he seemed to be working with an invisible ball. He hardly threw an honest fast ball for a strike all night, yet his breaking pitches were finding the corners and driving the pressing Yankees crazy.
Yankee hitters stepped out of the box all night, shaking their heads as though they had never known that home plate had so many corners, nor that they were so distant from their reach.
The Yankees' only run after the first-game fireworks was unearned and accidental. Dave Winfield beat out an accidental dribbler to third and took second on Boddicker's wild pickoff throw to first. He then scored as Graig Nettles smashed an RBI double over first. The Orioles answered with a run in the fourth off starter John Montefusco as Lowenstein doubled to right and Ken Singleton grounded a single through the right side for a hit.
In the decisive sixth, Manager Martin gave himself more black eyes. First, he removed Montefusco, who had allowed only three hits, and replaced him with Rudy May, a rusty southpaw who has been in the manager's doghouse all season.
May immediately walked the leadoff man, Dan Ford, on four pitches. Cal Ripken smoked his 40th double of the year into the right field corner, moving Ford to third. Next, May got Murray on a weak grounder. Instead of walking Gary Roenicke and pitching to Singleton, who would have had to bat righty with the bases loaded and the infield back, Martin decided to bring in George Frazier and pitch to Roenicke with the infield in.
That move killed the Yankees.
Roenicke hit what would have been a routine nobody-moves pop fly to short center--had the infield been back. Instead, the towering pop managed to fall beyond diving Willie Randolph's grasp for an RBI hit. With two out, the pesky Nolan hit another tricky fly which tried to triangulate its way into short center. Center fielder Omar Moreno, running hard, dropped the bloop for a two-base error as Ripken scored an insurance run.
This was an evening when the Orioles, in a pennant-race crisis, turned to two young pitchers--21-year-old Storm Davis and rookie Boddicker. Davis, all heart, stranded runners in scoring position in all five innings he worked in the opener, keeping the Orioles breathing so they could rally late. Boddicker, with every seat in the house taken, looked like he loved every minute of his you-bums-can't-touch-me performance.
This evening, the Yankees saw the future. And it was orange and black.