It was hard for Manager Earl Weaver to ask for much more today. He got a three-run homer in the eighth inning that won the game, six innings of fairly strong pitching from starter Storm Davis, a second straight strong relief effort from Nate Snell, and two good defensive plays by backup catcher Floyd Rayford.
It was rookie Larry Sheets' home run that broke a tie and gave the Baltimore Orioles a 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers before 42,432 at County Stadium.
The Orioles trailed, 3-0, after five innings, but got one run back in the sixth on Cal Ripken's sacrifice fly, another in the seventh on Fred Lynn's team-leading 12th home run of the year, and tied it in the eighth on an unearned run after Eddie Murray's double.
It was after an intentional walk to Lynn that Sheets, on a 3-2 pitch, hit his ninth home run, off Rollie Fingers (0-3), who had come on in relief of Moose Haas.
"This is Earl's philosophy, the three-run homer," Sheets said. "This is what he lives and dies by . . . I was looking for anything but a ground ball (because) I've had my share of double plays."
When someone asked Weaver if this was his favorite game since returning, he said, "Don't say that. Almost. But a four-run homer is my favorite. But I like three-run homers, too. The only thing you can do (incorrectly) there is miss a base or run past somebody."
Weaver was nearly as elated over Snell (2-1), who retired all nine batters he faced in the final three innings. "That ball dies that Snell throws up there, doesn't it? Weaver mused. "It dies. It takes a deep turn down."
With today's victory, the Orioles completed a slight turn up, moving percentage points ahead of Boston into third place in the American League East. After losing four in a row, they have won two straight and are 5 1/2 games behind first-place Toronto. Interestingly, Milwaukee is the only team they have beaten since June 7.
"Two out of three would be great if we hadn't had a six-run lead in the other game (Friday night, which the Orioles lost, 13-10)," Weaver said of the series here.
For a while today, it looked as if the Orioles would lose ground on Toronto and drop two of three to the sixth-place Brewers.
Paul Molitor started the game with a single and his 11th stolen base of the year. Milwaukee's base running plan was obvious: "I knew they were trying to get to second on the first pitch possible," said Rayford, who was starting in place of Rick Dempsey.
An error by Rich Dauer at second base and a fielder's choice by Robin Yount allowed the Brewers to take a 1-0 lead with an unearned run off Davis.
More sloppy fielding led to Milwaukee's next two runs. Shortstop Ripken's error put Rick Manning on base to start the third, and Molitor's home run made it 3-0, even though it was the first ball hit hard off Davis.
Rayford eliminated the possibility of the Brewers rallying in the second after Ben Oglivie's single; he caught Oglivie trying to steal second. Rayford also threw out Jim Gantner in the fourth when he tried to steal after a two-out single.
The Orioles got a scare in the fifth when Davis, fielding Manning's dribbler down the first-base line, collided with the Milwaukee outfielder and fell.
"I knew the ball would stay fair," Davis said, "and I pretty much knew we were about to collide. I just wanted to hang onto the ball."
Davis held the ball for the out, but "caught either the ground or Manning's knee in the groin."
After finishing the fifth and sixth innings, he began feeling dizzy. So Weaver called on Snell, the only pitcher on the staff with an earned run average below 3.74.
John Shelby, who started again -- this time in right field in place of Lee Lacy -- singled in the sixth inning, went to third on Jim Dwyer's single and scored on Ripken's fly ball to make it 3-1. Lynn's homer led off the seventh. The Orioles were fortunate to tie the score in the eighth. Dwyer, who had walked, was being held at third on Murray's double. But Oglivie bobbled the ball in right, allowing Dwyer to score the tying run, unearned. Sheets' homer, however, made it a moot point.
"We're only four out in the loss column; that's why they call it the 'all-important loss column,' " Weaver said as he prepared to leave for Monday's series opener in New York. "Now, it seems like we're getting some good pitching again."