By the time Willie Randolph got to Yankee Stadium today, every baseball fan in the city seemed to know owner George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees had wanted to trade him to San Diego for Alan Wiggins.
Even the Yankees players joked that it would be nice if Randolph hit two home runs and, "showed him." Randolph didn't hit any homers, but his eighth-inning ground single past the Baltimore Orioles' drawn-in infield gave the Yankees a 5-4 victory tonight.
"I thought about all that before I went up there," he said. "It's just coincidence, though."
Randolph's roller off reliever Don Aase, past diving Cal Ripken, turned out to be more important than Jim Dwyer's two home runs, which accounted for all the Orioles' runs. His first home run, with none on in the fourth, broke New York's 3-0 shutout. And his homer in the fifth put the Orioles and Dennis Martinez ahead, 4-3.
But Dave Winfield led off the eighth with a grounder that looked as if it should have been fielded by Ripken. Instead, it rolled under his glove for a hit. Martinez (5-5) then gave up a double to Ron Hassey that put Yankees on second and third with nobody out.
Martinez said that the breaking pitch was the right pitch to throw anyone but Hassey, "because he likes the ball low."
Aase came in and gave up a medium-deep fly to left field that not only enabled Winfield to score the tying run, but allowed pinch runner Omar Moreno -- on a daring and close play -- to slide safely into third.
That forced the Baltimore infield to play in for a play at home plate. At normal depth, Randolph's ball would have been right at shortstop Ripken.
"That ball's a double play . . . " the Orioles' manager, Earl Weaver, said. "They got what amounted to an infield hit and a fly ball. But Baylor and Randolph did what they had to do (with men on second and third and none out) -- they got the bat on the ball, both of them."
Said Randolph: "The infield being in doesn't make it any easier to hit the ball. But I kind of figured Earl would have him throw me breaking balls in that situation. Sure, the infield is in, but you still have to get it by someone. I saw it all the way . . . The way I've been going, I just had to hold my breath for a second."
The victory, which went to Joe Cowley (6-3) who allowed six hits in eight innings, dropped the Orioles six games behind idle Toronto in the American League East.
Brian Fisher earned his third save of the season for ninth-inning relief help. He allowed a two-out single to pinch hitter Mike Young, but got pinch hitter Joe Nolan on a liner to first baseman Don Mattingly.
The Yankees were somewhat relieved. "It really would have hurt if we'd lost after being up, 3-0," Randolph said.
It was the second straight game that Baltimore trailed 3-0 and used a three-run homer to come from behind. On Sunday in Milwaukee, Larry Sheets' homer in the eighth led to a 6-3 victory.
Each team had chances early at multiple-run innings tonight because each starting pitcher walked the first two batters on eight pitches. After Cowley walked Lee Lacy and Dwyer without throwing a strike, Manager Billy Martin had Rich Bordi throwing in the bullpen. But Cowley threw a pitch close enough for Ripken to hit into a double play. And Eddie Murray struck out.
Martinez wasn't as fortunate after he walked Rickey Henderson and Ken Griffey. Henderson stole his league-leading 31st base in 32 attempts, but the Orioles did get the benefit of a strange double play. Mattingly's fly ball to center sent Fred Lynn to the warning track. And for some reason, Griffey tagged up; he was out by six feet at second base.
But Henderson scored from third when Winfield doubled into the left field corner with two out.
The Yankees made it 3-0 in the third. Bobby Meacham beat out a bunt. And Henderson, on base 14 times in 17 plate appearances last week, singled to center and advanced when Lynn threw toward third trying to get Meacham. Griffey's fly made it 2-0, and Mattingly's single 3-0.
Leading off the fourth, Dwyer hit a towering home run to right that made it 3-1.
With two out in the fifth, Cowley hit Rich Dauer on the back and Lacy beat out a grounder to short. Dwyer followed with his seventh homer, a line drive over the wall in right, to give Baltimore a 4-3 lead.