For a month, the Detroit Tigers have been building up a first-class hostility toward their distant tormenters, the Baltimore Orioles.
While the Tigers were playing 17-10 baseball, the cursed Orioles were off in some other universe, going 23-4. The Tigers watched the scoreboard bitterly each night as they slipped from one game out of the American League East lead on Aug. 23 to a moribund 7 1/2 games in arrears this morning.
Oh, if they could just get their hands on those Orioles before it was too late.
That frustration errupted here in Tiger Stadium tonight as the Tigers tied a major-league record with 10 consecutive hits, a feat last accomplished 53 years ago, and greeted those blasted Baltimoreans by scoring 11 runs and sending up 16 batters in the first inning.
The Tigers eventually won, 14-1, in a game mercifully ended by rain after five innings. The second game of the doubleheader was postponed and rescheduled as part of a Wednesday twinighter beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Detroit's Jack Morris and Glenn Abbott facing Mike Boddicker and Bill Swaggerty.
After the Tigers' leadoff man grounded out, the next dozen hitters reached base, the first 11 of them scoring. In the inning, Detroit had seven singles, two triples, two home runs and two walks. Baltimore made two errors, but neither was on a play where a Tiger could have been put out. None of the Tigers' 11 hits in the inning was tainted and all the runs were extremely earned.
By the time Kirk Gibson batted for the second time, Detroit had an 11-0 lead, only one man was out and Baltimore's team earned run average for the game was 281--that's 281 with no decimal point involved.
"We haven't done it yet," said Gibson, whose Tigers have six more games with the Orioles in the next nine days. "But that's a helluva start."
The Orioles, whose magic number is eight, came here with a chance to clinch with a sweep. "After losing one, we won't dance here," said Ken Singleton. "But we'll dance soon."
Before this evening, five teams had gotten 10 hits in an inning without being interrupted by an out. The most recent was the 1930 Brooklyn Dodgers. The only time an AL team got 10 consecutive hits--walks do not break a hit streak--was in 1901 when Boston did the far-fetched deed to Milwaukee.
Starter Dennis Martinez, putting the finishing touches on one of the worst seasons by a pitcher in '83, was charged with seven runs while Jim Palmer, knocked out in his previous two starts, mopped up the rest of the way. Palmer did most of his warming up while he was in the game.
For a team that has played like a heavenly nine since Aug. 13, that first inning was like hellish joke on the Orioles. The Tigers, fresh from a day off, were bushy-tailed while the Orioles, having played 32 games in 32 days, looked like what they were: an exhausted team that didn't reach its hotel here until 4 a.m.
Here's how it happened: Trammell singled to center on an 0-2 pitch, then stole second and third on Martinez with contemptuous ease. Larry Herndon walked. Herndon stole second and took third as Joe Nolan's throw went into center, Trammell scoring. Lance Parrish singled to center to score Herndon. Kirk Gibson tripled to left-center for a run.
Cabell ripped a grounder past Martinez into center for a 4-0 lead. At that point, Martinez's interest in the proceedings flagged, or perhaps memories of his 7-15 season overwhelmed him. Chet Lemon hit his next pitch off the flag pole 410 feet away in center field for a triple. Glenn Wilson singled past Martinez for a run. Manager Joe Altobelli then tied the human-race record for tolerance by paternally patting Martinez on the back as he left the mound.
Palmer entered and the blaze turned into an inferno. Wayne Krenchiki blooped a single to left and Whitaker unloaded a three-run homer into the upper deck in right for a 9-0 lead. "At 6-0, I was mad," said Eddie Murray. "At 9-0, I started laughing." Trammell singled to left and, as the crowd of 32,410 never stopped its continuous roar of disbelief, Herndon homered, his liner clearing the fence in left by inches.
Palmer turned his back on the home plate umpire and refused to accept a new ball. Nolan had to trot it out to the mound personally. Palmer then lollipopped a curve over pinch hitter John Wockenfuss' head as a perfunctory "knockdown." Wockenfuss walked.
Gibson broke the spell of 12 straight on base and 10 hits with a strikeout. Cabell, who, like Trammell, had a single off both Martinez and Palmer in the inning, beat out a grounder to short. Lemon ended the inning with a short fly to left on which, fittingly, Cal Ripken and John Lowenstein knocked each other flat.
Moments after the Tigers finished the fifth, rain began steadily falling and soon became a zero-visibility torrent. The game was official and Dan Petry had a victory. Had the Orioles stalled 10 more minutes, they might have had a 14-1 deficit washed out.
The Orioles' only bright spot, and that's searching deep, was Palmer's willingness to mop up. "I was proud of Jim Palmer," said Coach Ray Miller. "He's paid to pitch isn't he?" said Singleton.
Afterward, Palmer said he thought he had found the flaw in his motion in his last two innings: he was holding the ball too tightly. That's understandable. After allowing 15 runs in his previous three innings over three games, he had probably developed an unconscious fear of releasing a baseball.
After Sunday's game in Memorial Stadium, in which he allowed seven runs in the second inning and was booed, he "contemplated not coming back (this season)" but, after an 11 p.m. revisit to the stadium to check the radar gun, he found he'd thrown faster than he had in two seasons--something he'd suspected, despite his shelling. "I threw well," he said. "I just didn't pitch well."
This evening, Palmer worked 4 1/3 innings, thus resting a mighty weary Orioles' bullpen when it most needed a day off. "If they're going to pay me," he said, "I'm going to go out there and try if it will help the team."
Some 267-game winners might not have.