Earl Weaver, hesitant to speak he was so angry, said his Orioles will surely win the pennant if they get pitching performances like this every night for the rest of the year.
Probably so. But Mike Boddicker's four-hitter couldn't get Baltimore a victory tonight. He took a masterpiece of a two-hitter into the ninth, then gave up a two-run home run to Tom Brunansky that gave Minnesota a 2-1 victory in Memorial Stadium.
Brunansky's 19th homer came on a three-ball, no-strike pitch. "No doubt, I was swinging all the way," Brunansky said. "Boddicker was so tough all night. He kept us off balance by throwing more fast balls than he normally does. This was the first time in my career when I knew he was gonna throw me a fast ball."
Twins Manager Ray Miller, the former Orioles pitching coach, had given Brunansky the go-ahead sign.
"Before the inning even started, I said, 'If (Mike) Stenhouse gets on, Brunansky's going to swing.' Someone asked me, 'What if the count's 2-0?' And I said, 'Even if it's 3-0.' They would have let (Cal) Ripken or (Eddie) Murray do it in the same situation, and Bru is our big gun. He gets paid to do that.
"Of course, if he had popped up everybody would be asking me how could I let him hit."
Boddicker, who probably wished the take sign had been on, said, "I was just trying to get the ball on the outer third (of the plate) and got it down the middle and he just hit it. He didn't hit it that good for Bruno. He's a strong man. He popped it up, he hit it high. He's like Jim Rice and those guys. They can just miss it and still hit it out."
Stenhouse had singled to start the inning. And four pitches later, what looked like an invigorating shutout had deflated the Orioles and ticked off their manager.
"Ordinarily, we win that ball game," Weaver said, his voice rising to a near shout. "But that doesn't make you feel any better right now. We walked off the field without a win.
"Last night was the ugliest son-ofagun in the world (an 11-6 Orioles victory). Tonight's is one of the best ball games you'll see. All of our efforts were outstanding; it was a good ball game. But there's nothing good about a game when you lose."
It was, in the purest sense, a great ball game, the kind rarely seen in the American League this season.
Boddicker took a two-hitter into the ninth, and Baltimore led, 1-0, only because Frank Viola (10-6) allowed an unearned run in the fifth attributable to his own error on a pickoff throw to first base.
Mike Young, who went from first to third on the play, scored on Lee Lacy's single to right, which extended his hitting streak to a team-best 13 games.
Boddicker (9-8) had given up singles in the second and sixth innings, but was obviously in command. His effort held so much more importance because the Orioles' bullpen desperately needed an evening off.
The Orioles lead the league by far in runs scored, but could do nothing against Viola, who threw 140 pitches before getting ninth-inning help from Ron Davis (10th save).
Viola and Boddicker were saved at least twice each by outstanding defensive plays.
Randy Bush, in the seventh, robbed Young of at least a double with a graceful running catch that took him to the wall in left field. Rick Dempsey, who had singled the previous at bat, might have scored on the play. Bush had already robbed Alan Wiggins of an extra-base hit and probable RBI in the third with a diving catch.
"Randy (playing in place of injured Mickey Hatcher) isn't known for his defensive play. After just about every game, he comes up and asks me how he's doing," said Brunansky. "After that catch, I just got his attention and tipped my cap to him."
Bush's catch in the seventh, fine as it was, was nearly forgotten after what Lacy did in the eighth. Kent Hrbek's drive to right looked like it might clear the wall.
But as Brunansky recalled, "Lacy just kept running and running. And it was real wet out there. His feet had to be heavy. There's no way I thought he'd get that."
But Lacy caught the ball and the wall -- face first -- at the height of his jump and was knocked flat on his back for several minutes while most of the 18,362 stood and applauded.
It took Lacy nearly a minute just to get into the dugout because he had to give out so many high-fives.
The Orioles and Memorial Stadium probably couldn't have been any higher at that point. But it only took a few pitches in the top of the ninth to bring them down.