Tonight, the Baltimore Orioles kept their 1985 season perfect, and got off to their best start in 12 years, mainly because of three decisions.
Two were theirs. One had the dubious distinction of belonging to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Combined, they added up to a 7-2 victory for the Orioles in front of 26,585 at Memorial Stadium in the first entry of a three-game weekend series, that, were it later in the season, would be considered crucial in the American League East.
The first decision was Baltimore's, allowing shortstop Cal Ripken to play on his sprained left ankle. It resulted in two hits in three at-bats and the RBI that gave the Orioles their first lead, 2-1, in the third inning.
Ripken, appearing in his 445th consecutive game, went to Manager Joe Altobelli before the game.
"I can play easy," he told his manager.
"That's all I had to hear," Altobelli said later.
"I knew I had my mobility," Ripken said. When he beat out an infield single that allowed Rick Dempsey to score the Orioles' second run, he had his first RBI of the season.
"I knew I'd find a way to get to first base," he said.
The second decision was Toronto's. Manager Bobby Cox decided to lift reliever Dennis Lamp, who one-hit the Orioles for 2 2/3 innings, in the seventh inning and replace him with Ron Musselman, one of Toronto's designated middle-innings relief men.
Soon, Musselman looked around and saw the bases loaded with Orioles and one out.
Enter Decision No. 3. Altobelli told Jim Dwyer to pinch hit for Gary Roenicke, who had hit a solo home run in the fourth to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
Dwyer had never seen Musselman before. His first pitch, a sinker, was low.
"He couldn't go to 2-0 with the bases loaded," Dwyer said. "I knew he would come in with it."
He did, and Dwyer smashed a triple into the alley in left-center to score Lenn Sakata, Ripken and Eddie Murray. "I didn't hit it real well, just right dead in between (the outfielders)," Dwyer said.
The ball rolled to the wall.
Dwyer scored moments later on a wild pitch, and the Orioles had a four-run inning.
With three hitless innings from reliever Sammy Stewart, the Orioles went on to win the game easily, handing Scott McGregor his first victory of the season. Stewart, who now has pitched seven hitless innings in 1985, picked up his second save.
Toronto's Jimmy Key, making his first big-league start, took the loss by giving up the first three runs, two earned, in 3 1/3 innings.
As happy as they were with their decisions -- "the little things you gotta do," Dempsey said -- they were more pleased about this 3-0 start, their best since a 4-0 beginning in 1973.
"It's momentum," said Dempsey. "You see what the Detroit Tigers did with momentum last year. It's a good start, especially to beat a good team like Toronto (picked by many to win the AL East this season)."
Toronto jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on George Bell's 400-foot shot just over the wall in center, his second home run in as many at-bats. His 10th-inning home run Thursday night defeated Kansas City, 4-3.
The Orioles came back to take the lead in the third. Fritz Connally led off with a double down the line in right, and Dempsey followed by slapping a double between the bag and third baseman Garth Iorg into left to score Connally.
It quickly became apparent that this was not to be Iorg's inning. Sakata, who was up next, smashed a one-hop grounder to Iorg, who looked up to check Dempsey at second at the same moment that the ball hit him in the chest.
The error set up a double play off the bat of Dan Ford, forcing Sakata at second while Dempsey went to third.
Ripken, who underwent hot and cold treatments after his injury Wednesday, is wearing a custom-made brace off the field and lots of tightly wrapped tape on it. He was up next and grounded a 2-1 pitch sharply off Key's left foot. The ball caromed toward Iorg as Dempsey dashed home and Ripken ran gamely toward first.
Iorg's throw to first was late. Dempsey crossed the plate and pumped his arms into the air as the Orioles took a 2-1 lead.
"I was real happy for him," Dempsey said of Ripken. "He was hurting pretty much before the game."
The lead didn't last long. McGregor's first pitch in the fourth inning ended up in the right field bleachers, deposited there by Willie Upshaw.
Not to be outdone, Roenicke placed Key's first pitch in the bottom of the fourth into the bleachers in left field for a 3-2 Baltimore lead that held up the rest of the game.
Brewers 11, Rangers 6: Bill Schroeder knocked in six runs with his first career grand-slam homer and a single as Milwaukee tarnished Texas' home opener.
Schroeder, a .438 hitter against the Rangers, hit a two-run single in the second inning off loser Frank Tanana and Randy Ready added a sacrifice fly as the Brewers rallied to take a 3-2 lead.
The next inning, Cecil Cooper led off with a double, Mark Brouhard singled and Paul Householder walked to load the bases. Schroeder then lofted a drive that just cleared the wall in left field for a grand slam off Tanana that made it 7-2.
Texas cut its deficit to 7-6 in the fifth with four runs. Curtis Wilkerson's walk, Don Slaught's single, and Toby Harrah's walk loaded the bases with two out. Gary Ward singled across two runs and Buddy Bell doubled in two more.
Bell's hit knocked out Darwin and brought on Bob Gibson, who went 2 1/3 innings for the victory.
The Brewers iced it with four unearned runs in the eighth off Ranger reliever Dave Schmidt. Doug Loman, Paul Molitor and Cooper all contributed run-scoring singles.