It had been nearly a week since there had been smiles in the Baltimore Orioles' locker room following a game. But the Orioles, at the end of an emotional and exhausting day, finally found a night on which they could forget their troubles.
Another complete-game pitching performance by Scott McGregor and some unaccustomed hitting gave the Orioles an 8-3 victory over Milwaukee tonight at Memorial Stadium.
Baltimore's victory, which ended a five-game losing streak, was highlighted by Fred Lynn's two-run homer off the foul pole in right field in the fourth inning that gave his team a 4-2 lead; Mike Young's two-run triple in the eighth, and Cal Ripken Sr.'s flawless decision-making as manager-for-a-night.
"We might turn it around and go 15-2, and everybody forgets the five-game losing streak," Ripken said. "This ball club certainly has that capability."
McGregor (5-5) pitched as he is capable for the fifth straight time. He allowed a two-run homer to Cecil Cooper in the second, but settled down and didn't allow an earned run the rest of the night.
Ripken Sr. had plenty of help from Cal Ripken Jr., who drove in Baltimore's first run with a double to right in the four-run fourth and another with an opposite-field double in the three-run eighth.
In the eighth, Ripken Sr. sent in Gary Roenicke, who walked, setting up the two-run triple by Young, another pinch hitter.
"You're always pleased when you're filling in and you do something that works," Ripken Sr. said. "It's not the ideal position to be in; your ball club doesn't know exactly what you'll do throughout a game.
"But it's the same old thing: the players make the manager."
Of course, if the Orioles had played with similar results the past month, they might not be in the transitional stage they're in now.
But they are, and the fact is that Earl Weaver, who is expected to join the team here Friday night for an 8 o'clock game with the Brewers, called Ripken Sr. after the game and congratulated him.
There's not much more, if anything, Weaver could have done tonight. In fact, Ripken pinch-hitting for Weaver has worked well before.
Once, when Weaver was suspended for four games, Ripken took over the club and won four straight, prompting Weaver to say he would watch from the stands and not even enter the clubhouse. "I know Earl will be here (Friday night)," Ripken said with a smile.
At today's news conference to announce Weaver's return, Edward Bennett Williams, the Orioles' owner, was asked if Ripken was upset about not having a chance to manage the club.
The question was also relevant to Frank Robinson, who has managerial experience, and to Ray Miller, the pitching coach. When Williams brought in Robinson during the offseason as a coach, many called him the manager-in-waiting.
"I know those people are professional enough to accept the decision," Williams said.
If the elder Ripken had any hard feelings, they certainly didn't surface in his pregame remarks to the dozens of reporters and cameramen who crowded the field after Williams' team meeting to record the players' reactions to the day's news.
"I feel we're all lucky to get Earl Weaver to replace Joe Altobelli under these circumstances, just like I thought we were lucky to get Joe Altobelli to replace Earl Weaver (upon Weaver's retirement in 1982)," Ripken said.
Whether the players will feel as fortunate remains to be seen. "Earl didn't run a popularity contest before, and I don't think he will this time," Peters had said earlier in the afternoon.
The Orioles got off to as poor a start tonight as they had in losing the previous five games. Paul Molitor singled to left to lead off the game and, one out later, Cooper hit his home run to right that gave Milwaukee a 2-0 lead off McGregor.
Wayne Gross had Baltimore's first hit, to start the third inning, but was wiped out on Rich Dauer's double-play grounder.
It wasn't until the fourth inning that Baltimore came up with the kind of multi-run inning that it has managed so infrequently over the last six weeks.
Lee Lacy got his seventh hit in 14 at bats by doubling off the left field wall to start the inning. Jim Dwyer joined him on the bases after being hit in the right elbow with a pitch by Burris.
Ripken Jr., on an 0-2 count, went with an outside pitch and hit it to right for a double that scored Lacy and cut Baltimore's deficit to 2-1.
Eddie Murray's sacrifice fly to deep center scored Dwyer with the tying run and Ripken advanced to third. But Ripken's effort proved to be unnecessary since Lynn followed with his 10th home run of the season, high off the foul pole in right field, to give Baltimore a 4-2 lead. Lynn's homer total leads the team.
The Brewers got an unearned run in the sixth. The Orioles probably should have been charged with three errors in the inning, but the official scorer was kind enough to call Bobby Clark's grounder off Gross' chest a single.
Ripken's two errors on one play (fielding and throwing) already had put Ted Simmons on second. Jim Gantner's single up the middle drove in Simmons with Milwaukee's third run.
But the Orioles countered with a tainted run in the seventh to regain their two-run lead. After Larry Sheets struck out, Gross hit a line drive that glanced off shortstop Earnie Riles' glove into left field. Again, the official scorer was lenient and called it a hit.
Instead of having two out, Dauer's double off the wall in left drove in a run that increased Baltimore's lead before Rick Dempsey struck out to end the inning.