A familiar face returned to the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon, but the result also was familiar.
Former Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan made his first appearance of the season for the Orioles after tearing an Achilles' tendon last winter, but the veteran left-hander could do no better than the rest of the staff. He gave up five runs in less than four innings as the Kansas City Royals beat the Orioles, 7-5, in front of 26,366 at Memorial Stadium.
Afterward, Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver held a 45-minute meeting with his pitching staff. Weaver and Flanagan characterized the meeting as positive and designed to allow people to discuss ways to improve the staff, especially the starters, who have not been pulling their share of the weight.
Flanagan's departure in the fourth inning (five hits, five earned runs) marked the 24th time this season an Orioles starter has not made it through the fifth inning.
"It was amicable . . . is that the way you say it?" Weaver said of the meeting. "It was productive, but I guess we won't know until we see some results.
"Nobody got chewed out, I'll tell you that. The relievers are just overworked; there's no secret to that. We're just trying to find out what to do to improve.
"It was group discussion, group therapy. You guys (the press) came up, but there's not a lot of positive things you can write when the ERA is up (to 4.44 for the team). They know what they have to do. Each pitcher, as an individual, knows what he has to do."
The Orioles got a 2-0 lead in the first inning off starter Danny Jackson (8-6). He walked leadoff hitter Floyd Rayford, who batted in that spot because second baseman Alan Wiggins is in California with his wife and newborn son.
Rayford went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a balk. Lee Lacy then walked. Cal Ripken's ground ball forced Lacy at second but scored Rayford. Eddie Murray doubled, and Fred Lynn brought Ripken home with a fly to center.
It was 2-0, Jackson was in trouble and Flanagan looked good. But Jackson settled down and Flanagan got into trouble. With one out in the third, he gave up three straight singles to load the bases. That brought up George Brett, the hottest hitter in the American League at .359.
"I definitely didn't want the bases loaded and have to pitch to Brett," Flanagan said. "And then maybe I tried a little too hard. It was a curve ball on the inside of the plate. I'd really like to get that back. You hate to think the game comes down to one pitch but it usually does."
Brett (two for four with a homer and four RBI) sent Flanagan's curve ball into the right field corner for a double and a 3-2 lead.
"There's not a damn thing you can do about Brett," Weaver said.
"I was pleased with the way I threw," Flanagan said. "I was more nervous in Hagerstown (on a rehabilitation assignment last week) than I was for this one."
Hal McRae hit his seventh home run of the year to lead off the Kansas City fourth, and, when Flanagan walked the next batter, Steve Balboni, Weaver brought in Sammy Stewart. But John Wathan singled, Buddy Biancalana sacrificed and Willie Wilson's grounder scored a run.
Gary Roenicke hit his ninth homer in the bottom of the inning, but that was all the Orioles would get until the ninth.
Brett led off the fifth with his 13th homer of the year, to center field, to make it 6-3, and Wilson made it 7-3 in the seventh when he hit his fourth homer, to right field. Wilson has only 21 lifetime homers, 13 of which have been of the inside-the-park variety. One batter later, Don Aase relieved Stewart.
Right-hander Dan Quisenberry came on in the seventh to strike out Lacy and Ripken with two runners on. But Quisenberry, the AL leader in appearances, let the Orioles back in the game in the ninth.
Mike Young and pinch hitters Wayne Gross and Larry Sheets singled, with Young scoring on Sheets' hit. Pinch hitter John Shelby's grounder to second moved Gross to third, but forced Sheets at second.
Weaver then pinch hit again, this time for his hottest hitter, Lacy, who had extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a single in the fifth. Rookie Al Pardo, a switch-hitter, hit left-handed and bounced one back to Quisenberry, who forced Shelby at second. Pardo beat the throw to first, allowing Gross to score to make it 7-5.
That left two out and Ripken at bat. He is in the top three in the league in RBI (62), but all he could manage was a dribbler back to Quisenberry for the last out.
Lacy, who ranks fourth in the league in hitting (.332), was not upset at being lifted.
"Whatever the manager does is fine with me," he said. "I'm trying to win, and I know he's trying to win. And the bottom line is winning."