This must be why grown men believe in utterances like, "It ain't over till it's over."
Trailing by two runs coming to bat in the ninth inning, Baltimore tied tonight's game in Memorial Stadium because California couldn't field a bunt that should have been a double play. The rejuvenated Orioles then got a two-run, opposite-field home run from Lee Lacy, his first American League homer, to make it a four-run inning and beat the Angels, 7-5.
Lacy's home run came with one out off Donnie Moore, the Angels' fourth pitcher, and made a winner out of Sammy Stewart (2-1), who faced and retired just one batter as Baltimore's fourth pitcher of the game.
The Baltimore ninth began with Pat Clements walking Larry Sheets on four pitches. Moore, the AL relief pitcher of the month for May but the loser in the ninth at Detroit Sunday, came in to face pinch hitter Mike Young. And Young singled up the middle to put men on first and second.
Mike Boddicker ran for Sheets, and scored a most improbable run. Lenn Sakata's pop-up bunt probably should have been caught on the fly by Moore or catcher Bob Boone. Even so, Moore fielded it on one hop, but when he threw to third for the forceout, nobody was covering the base.
The ball went into left field, allowing Boddicker to score and close the Orioles to 5-4. Baltimore Manager Joe Altobelli remembered saying to himself, "Hallelujah, I'll take it any time."
Joe Nolan, hitting for Rick Dempsey, hit a sacrifice fly that not only scored Young with the tying run, but advanced Sakata to third.
It turned out not to matter what base Sakata occupied when Lacy lifted a fly ball that didn't stop until it rested in one of the first few rows of the right field bleachers, just inside the foul pole.
"I thought it was just a darn lazy fly ball," Moore said. "I didn't think he hit it that good."
Lacy couldn't have cared less how his 65th career home run looked. "All I wanted to do was hang in there, and hit the ball hard in the air somewhere," Lacy said, explaining that he'd have settled for a game-winning sacrcrifice fly.
Lacy was called back to take a bow by those who remained in the crowd of 18,882. "I was on my way in the clubhouse but the people were still standing up," Lacy said. "This is a great feeling."
It wasn't such a great feeling for Moore, who said of the Sakata bunt play: "I didn't let the ball drop; I couldn't get to it. We were going to make sure of one out. Boonie was yelling, 'First, first!' but I thought he was yelling, 'Third, third!'
"The runner was so far from third base I was thinking maybe double play. I turned to pick up the bag and threw it there. I figured the third baseman went back . . . "
Sakata said, "It was a lousy bunt. I thought it was going to be a double play. I was about to throw my helmet and I looked over and there was nobody standing at third and I started running. It was a weird play. They had some kind of a mixup; no way a guy should charge in from third (Doug DeCinces) and the shortstop (Dick Schofield) not cover third base . . . "
Schofield said it was "a natural reaction" to let the ball drop and go to third for the force play.
That one half-inning was filled with so many what-ifs, especially for Baltimore. Altobelli (using the left-right percentages) nearly used Fritz Connally to hit for Wayne Gross. But knowing righthander Moore probably would enter the game, Altobelli said, "We've got a switch hitter sitting here (Young), so why not use him?"
The last-inning dramatics rewarded relief pitching (Nate Snell 2 2/3 innings, Tippy Martinez three innings) that kept the Orioles in the game after Ken Dixon allowed California a 5-0 lead with none out in the fourth inning.
The first run came in the third on Boone's homer, and three in the fourth on DeCinces' homer, on his first day back from another stay on the disabled list with chronic back problems.
The Orioles, meanwhile, got one run back in the fourth on Fred Lynn's sacrifice fly after Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray reached base on errors, the latter when Reggie Jackson dropped a fly in right field.
It became 5-3 in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Murray and an RBI single by Sheets.