The Baltimore Orioles' Mike Boddicker, through a series of misfortunes, had won only one of his last eight starts. But that didn't prevent his manager, Earl Weaver, from thinking: "When he's in there, you gotta believe you're favored to win."
Rarely is anybody favored to throw a shutout at Fenway Park. But Boddicker did today, completing a grueling 148-pitch effort to lead the Orioles to a 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox before 35,643, the second largest crowd of the season here.
He gave up five hits to the first 11 batters, then allowed only three more in the last seven innings.
Baltimore scored the game's runs in the first two innings, two of them in the first on run-scoring singles by Cal Ripken and Gary Roenicke, to help the Orioles finish a nine-game trip with a 4-5 record. "It seems like we turned ourselves around pretty well," Ripken said.
Weaver sat in the visiting clubhouse figuring out how to summarize a trip that started with two victories in three games in Milwaukee, then three straight losses in New York, then two victories in three games in Fenway Park.
"Not so bad is what I call it," he said. "It went from a horrendous disaster to not so bad."
The Orioles will return home for a three-game series with Detroit, beginning Monday night. They still trail first-place Toronto by 7 1/2 games, but are virtually tied for third with Boston and New York.
Outfielder Fred Lynn (injured back) and catcher Rick Dempsey were idle again today. John Shelby played center in place of Lynn, who could be back for Monday's nationally televised game against Detroit. Second baseman Rich Dauer could miss three or four games with a pulled hamstring.
Dempsey's sore arm could be better in a couple of more days, but Floyd Rayford had two more hits today and may be too hot to take out of the lineup anyway.
Boddicker was the obvious highlight today. Having averaged nearly five walks per nine innings this season, he walked only one today and struck out six.
But as outfielder Lee Lacy pointed out, nearly every Oriole helped win the game.
Lacy himself had a hit in the first inning that boosted his batting average over .300 and allowed him to score on Ripken's single to left with the game's first run.
Roenicke had two hits off Bob Ojeda (4-3), who threw a 130-pitch complete game. Lenn Sakata had a double in the third that helped score the third run, and he reached base on an error in the sixth.
Rayford, who had four hits Saturday, had two more in his first two at bats this afternoon -- to raise his batting average to .361 -- and he called a fine game behind the plate.
"Well, he hasn't done a damn thing wrong -- we know that," Weaver said. "He's an amazing guy, that sonofagun."
Then there was first baseman Eddie Murray, who made no fewer than three superb defensive plays, including a scoop in the ninth that retired Marty Barrett and kept Boston from putting two men on, and kept Boddicker in the game to get an easy final out.
"I'm gone if he doesn't scoop that ball," Boddicker said.
Weaver said if the first two Boston hitters, Dwight Evans and Rich Gedman, reached base, he would have gone to the bullpen and brought in Don Aase to pitch to Barrett.
"Boddicker was great," Weaver said. "But he's had good stuff in three of the four ball games he's pitched since I got back."
Rayford said Boddicker changed speeds especially well. Lacy said, "He was tough when he had to be. It looked like he really found himself." And Boddicker gave some of the credit to coach Elrod Hendricks and pitcher Scott McGregor.
"Scotty told me in the dugout to relax, that I had been trying too hard," Boddicker said after his 10th major league shutout. "He was right. I was trying hard, maybe too hard. But I hate to lose. I hate it . . . I hate it. A shutout, that's nice, but the win is special to me."
The Orioles weren't about to get carried away just because they won two straight at Boston. But after losing three straight in New York, the series here wasn't just another series.
"Either we came in here and kicked butt, or got kicked," Rayford said. "I think we'll be all right. But when you start looking ahead, that's when you get in trouble."
Baltimore might have been even more encouraged by winning with its hitting (16 runs) on Saturday and its pitching on Sunday. "I've been saying we've looked good without getting the results. Now, maybe we'll start getting the results," Weaver said. "At any rate, I like the ball club . . . We got a hell of a chance." Murray and Boston pitcher Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd talked amicably before today's game. Murray, a player who doesn't take kindly to Boyd's flamboyance, let Boyd know about it Saturday when the Orioles chased Boyd with seven runs in four innings.
Boyd said he didn't want Murray to take it personally, and Murray indicated he thinks Boyd is a fine pitcher who could do without the dramatics.