Rookie Ken Dixon gave up only four hits tonight in eight innings, then got last-inning relief help from Tippy Martinez and Sammy Stewart as the Baltimore Orioles won for the 10th time in 12 games by beating Kansas City, 4-2, in Royals Stadium.
The Royals had runners on first and second with one out when Baltimore Manager Joe Altobelli lifted Martinez in favor of right-hander Stewart to face right-handed hitter Steve Balboni, Kansas City's leader in home runs and runs batted in.
Stewart worked the count full before Balboni grounded to third baseman Wayne Gross, who was nearly in short left field. Gross threw to second to get the force and second baseman Rich Dauer made a balletic pivot on the throw to first to complete the double play.
Dixon (3-0) got the benefit of a two-run home run by Larry Sheets in the fourth and a homer by Mike Young in the ninth. All four Baltimore runs came after two were out.
Bret Saberhagen (2-3) was the loser. Stewart earned his fifth save.
After Dixon started the ninth by walking Danny Sheridan, he was taken out by Altobelli. "I wasn't going to automatically take him out," Altobelli said. "But it seemed he was starting to aim the ball at that point.
"Ray Miller (the Orioles' pitching coach) and I just looked at each other and knew that was enough. If I let him stay in, I might as well have canceled the bullpen."
Dixon agreed with the strategy. "I think he's got to pull me with (George) Brett coming up," he said. "You've got to have fair in your bullpen."
Martinez gave up a single to Brett but struck out Jorge Orta, who twice failed to bunt Sheridan and Brett into scoring position.
Stewart said he was expecting to come into the game to face veteran Hal McRae, who was on deck to pinch-hit for Orta. (Royals Manager Dick Howser later said he was saving McRae for the following at bat.) So Stewart had to adjust his thinking drastically when he came in one hitter later to face Balboni, a 6-foot-3 monster of a man whom Dixon says is capable of scaring people in batting practice.
"I wanted to get something hard on Balboni's hands," Stewart said. "The first couple of pitches I got too far in and fell behind him. But I knew I would keep going with my pitch. I was going to make him hit the hard slider.
"The guy scares you because if you throw something hard down the middle of the plate and out, he'll drive it somewhere even if he hits it off the end of the bat, because he's so strong."
Balboni hit an inside pitch deep to third. Gross moved a couple of steps to his left before starting the game-ending double play.
Stewart, while talking to a mob of reporters, repeatedly kept crediting Young with making his job easier by hitting the home run in the top half of the inning.
The home run -- a 430-foot drive to left center -- was Young's second hit of the game and helped pull him out of a slump. His batting average had droped to .192 coming into this game.
"I have to admit, it did feel really good," Young said. "I've been working with some things, extra batting practice. I've needed some work on some things, that's all. And I believe in hard work. So it was just good to give our pitchers some room in the ninth."
The Orioles made the best out of their eight hits off Saberhagen, who, Altobelli said, "seemed to pick up four or five miles per hour on his fast ball from the sixth inning on."
In the first, Eddie Murray broke his zero-for-10 slump with a run-scoring single in the first that put Baltimore ahead, 1-0.
Kansas City scored in the third on a double by Frank White and a ground-out by Onix Concepcion, then took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Brett's triple and grounder by Orta.
The Orioles reclaimed the lead for good at 3-2 when Sheets homered to right center, scoring Murray, who had singled. "The strange thing about that," Sheets said, "is that I was hitting the ball as well as I could in batting practice and couldn't even get the ball to the warning track. I was looking to right center, waiting for somebody to catch it."