The difference in the Baltimore Orioles the last four days is radical, almost to the point of being absurd.
The Orioles swept a four-game series for the first time since late 1983, using five home runs to keep Earl Weaver's winning streak alive with a 9-1 drubbing of Milwaukee today at Memorial Stadium.
Four days ago, the Orioles trailed Toronto by eight games in the American League East and Weaver was a retiree in the midst of a three-city tour to visit his children and grandchildren. But the Orioles' fourth consecutive victory -- all since the firing of Joe Altobelli -- moved them back within four games of the now slumping Blue Jays.
"When a ball club goes sour, and there is ability on the club . . . Joe knew, I knew, everybody knew we're gonna bust out of it and hit the ball like they can," Weaver said. "You know it will happen eventually; you just don't know when."
All Weaver's experiences continue to be giddy ones. Two home runs by Wayne Gross and one each by Jim Dwyer and Fred Lynn put away the Brewers early.
So what happens when Weaver sends up recently recalled John Shelby to bat in the eighth to keep the rust off? Shelby hits a two-run homer that struck the base of the left field foul pole for a 9-0 lead.
It's likely the Orioles would have won without the power display. Mike Boddicker (7-6) pitched a six-hitter and came within one out of a shutout to break his five-game losing streak.
But the efficiency of today's victory was not lost on Weaver. "I get Shelby in there to give him an at bat and wacko," Weaver said.
Asked about Baltimore's winning streak coinciding with his being named manager, Weaver said, "I don't know. There's some power other than what's here in this room taking care of me."
Baltimore ripped Milwaukee pitching for 33 runs in four games. "We just ran into a buzz saw," Brewers coach Frank Howard said.
Milwaukee Manager George Bamberger thought it might have been a little more involved than that. "Let's face it, we got the crap knocked out of us . . . (But) we think they might be getting our signs some way . . . maybe off the closed circuit TV," he said. "We were forewarned by another club, so it makes you think. They seemed to be on all the pitches."
Gross was certainly all over a changeup by Danny Darwin in the third inning. That pitch resulted in a homer that gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
Gross' second homer of the game -- and eighth this season -- started the fifth inning and made it 2-0.
The Orioles got an unearned run in the sixth. The Brewers should have been out of the inning when Fred Lynn hit what looked to be a sure double-play grounder. But the ball smacked umpire Terry Cooney below the kneecap, knocking him from the game with a bad bruise, and landing lucky Lynn on first with a single. Cecil Cooper's ensuing error allowed Baltimore to take a 3-0 lead.
The Orioles added three more in the seventh, two of them on Dwyer's fifth homer, and three in the eighth, on Lynn's homer and Shelby's two-run shot.
"As long as you're hittin', you're not gonna get hurt," Weaver said.
It was the second time this season Gross had two home runs, both times on Sunday. "Now, next Sunday I'm going to go oh for four and you guys are gonna go, 'Aggggggh,' " said Gross, who could not explain why all but one of his 13 RBI have come on home runs.
"That's the kind of thing that gets managers fired. I don't understand it. In the words of the immortal Rickey Henderson, 'It be's that way sometime.' "
Boddicker wouldn't have had a five-game losing streak if he had gotten half this many runs in two recent games. But he made one adjustment of his own. "I just wasn't being aggressive enough," he said.
"I wasn't challenging people. I was throwing too many 2-0 and 3-1 changeups . . . Earl said before the game, 'You're established, a proven major league pitcher. Just go out there and do what you have to do.' "
The only run Boddicker allowed came in the ninth on singles by Robin Yount, Bill Schroeder and Jim Ganter.
Weaver said he told Boddicker before the game, "This is your ballgame. I'm not even at the ballpark."
And except for his first trip out of the dugout to argue (mildly) when Eddie Murray was thrown out trying to steal second in the second inning, Weaver was hardly noticed with all the baseballs flying over fences.