Willie Hernandez, who almost never botches a save opportunity, blew one tonight when he served up an inside fast ball that Mike Young hit for a home run leading off the 10th inning to give the Baltimore Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Hernandez had 16 saves in 18 chances this season. And when he relieved Aurelio Lopez in the eighth inning tonight with Detroit leading Baltimore, 4-3, save No. 17 appeared imminent.
But with two outs in the ninth and Orioles Manager Earl Weaver standing in his lucky spot, Hernandez threw a 3-2 screwball that Cal Ripken put in the left field stands.
Extra innings. And then Young homered.
"I made a fool of myself," Hernandez said. "After that home run (Ripken's), I was frustrated. I shouldn't have gone back out (in the 10th). The pitch to Young was a fast ball inside with nothing on it."
Young, who replaced starter Gary Roenicke in left field, said he was just trying to get on base.
"We've got a whole lot of people on the team who can get you in," he said.
He took care of the job himself, though, and the Orioles, who had fallen 7 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East during an 8-14 stretch against division teams, beat Detroit for the first time this year. With the Toronto Blue Jays losing, 5-3, to the New York Yankees, the Orioles moved to 6 1/2 out.
"I was standing in my lucky spot in the runway, right behind Terry Crowley," Weaver said. "I was there the whole inning."
At the outset, it looked like it would take a lot more than luck for Baltimore to have a chance at winning. Starter Storm Davis, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings in a 6-1 loss at Boston last Friday, found trouble quickly.
He got Lou Whitaker to ground out before giving up Tom Brookens' double to right field. Davis then walked Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish to load the bases with one out and bring pitching coach Ken Howe to the mound. But after the visit, Davis gave up a grand slam, the first of his career, to Darrell Evans. It was Evans' 16th home run, and the sixth grand slam of his career.
It looked like Davis would be the 18th Baltimore starter of the year to depart before the fourth inning. Instead, he retired the next 15 batters before walking Kirk Gibson in the sixth. Davis left with a two-hitter and an impending loss, but, instead, Don Aase (5-3) got a victory.
"What gets you back in a game is when a pitcher takes command like that," Weaver said. "I'm going to have to stick with (Davis) when he gets in trouble early because he has showed he can come back."
Baltimore wasted scoring opportunities in the first and third. Lee Lacy got on base with a one-out single in the first and moved to second on Ripken's walk. But left-hander Frank Tanana struck out Eddie Murray and Roenicke to end the inning. In the third, Lacy and Ripken got on again -- this time with two out -- but Murray grounded to shortstop Doug Flynn.
Baltimore was finally able to score in the fifth. Rick Dempsey, playing for the first time in three games after sitting out because of a sore arm, led off the inning with a double down the third-base line. Lenn Sakata grounded out and John Shelby flied to left before Lacy hit his fourth homer of the year -- his third against the Tigers. Ripken reached first when Brookens bobbled his sharp grounder and went to second on a wild pitch to Murray, who struck out to end the rally.
Davis' stretch of retiring 15 straight ended when he walked Gibson for the second time in the sixth. But he got out of the inning by getting Parrish on a line drive to short and Evans on a grounder to first. Davis then resumed his mastery of the Tigers -- who entered the game tied with the Orioles for the league lead in home runs and leading the league in extra-base hits, total bases and on-base percentage -- by retiring the side in order in the seventh.
But he left trailing, 4-2, although he had only given up two hits.
Sakata, whose future with the Orioles is uncertain with the impending arrival of Alan Wiggins, put Davis within reach of victory with a bases-empty homer into the Orioles bullpen in the seventh, just before play was suspended by rain at 9:26.
Tanana, who nearly won his second straight game since the Tigers acquired him from Texas June 20, allowed six hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Murray, who went hitless in a third straight game for the first time this season, failed to advance seven base runners while going hitless in five trips.