If walking Cal Ripken with men on base isn't the worst thing a pitcher can do in baseball, it's close.
Today's Orioles victory was, in effect, assured when Kansas City reliever Mike LaCoss walked Ripken on four pitches to load the bases with two out in the seventh inning.
That brought up Eddie Murray, who leaned into an outside pitch and knocked it into the left field corner for a two-run double that sent Baltimore to a 6-4 victory over the Royals before 31,278 in Memorial Stadium.
Baltimore also got flawless relief from Tippy Martinez, who picked up the victory when he got the Orioles out of a seventh-inning jam, and Don Aase, who retired the final six hitters.
But the primary hero was Murray, whose second hit of the game ended a 4-4 tie and gave the Orioles a split of this four-game series.
"It's the same story line, as it often is," Ripken said. "Put Eddie up there with men on base in the late innings and watch him come through . . . I believe part of my job is to get on base for him."
LaCoss' job, upon taking over for starter Bud Black (6-11), was to retire Ripken, a right-handed hitter, and keep Murray from getting out of the on-deck circle.
Of the four balls LaCoss threw, three were nowhere near the plate, which didn't make Royals Manager Dick Howser happy.
"You don't walk a guy to get to Murray in that situation," Howser said. "That's like somebody walking a guy to get to (George) Brett. Not that Ripken can't do it, but the reason you bring the new pitcher in is (to get) right-hander against right-hander.
"Good hitters find a way to get base hits in that situation . . . I had Murray in the Instructional League when he was 17, so I know how good a hitter he is."
Murray wasn't sure what type of pitch he hit, not that it mattered, anyway. "I was concentrating on a sinker, so I don't know if it was a slider . . . I just forgot what I hit," he said. "You'd be surprised how many guys hit pitches that they don't even know what they were. I do that a lot."
A two-out walk to Lee Lacy (by Black) did as much to set up the inning as it did to end Lacy's hitting streak at 20 games.
Lacy, one of the American League's great free-swingers, took ball four on a three-two count and did not get another at bat.
Asked if he was just a wee bit upset about having to take ball four, Lacy smiled and said, "Blood was coming out of my ears. You know how much I like to swing. But the damn ball was way up. I know he's got better control than that.
"He was walking around the mound, taking a lot of time . . . I'm not Babe Ruth, I only got four home runs. I'm just a line-drive hitter . . . In the end, all I wanted to do was help the ball club. You saw, you'll still get positive results."
Lacy's walk allowed the inning to extend to Ripken, then to Murray. "The fact that he didn't swing is a credit to him," said Black.
Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver also had a lot to do with this victory.
The Royals took a 2-0 lead in the first on Brett's home run off Dennis Martinez, following Willie Wilson's leadoff bunt single.
Martinez appeared headed for more trouble in the second. He hit Steve Balboni and allowed a single to Jim Sundberg with one out.
Weaver reminded Martinez at the mound that he wasn't throwing the pitches that he had said before the game he would throw to certain hitters.
"He said, 'Well, let's do what you're supposed to do with these guys. Keep your word.' It was a great reminder," Martinez said.
That little meeting might have had more immediate impact than Weaver's 40-minute meeting with the pitching staff after Saturday's game.
"It was just what we talked about yesterday," Weaver said. "Know what you want to do and stick with it."
The Orioles got a three-run homer from Mike Young in the second -- extending his hitting streak to 12 games -- and an RBI single by Fred Lynn that put them ahead, 4-2. Martinez retired the next 11 batters before giving up four singles in the seventh, including Wilson's bloop to left that tied the score, 4-4.
Tippy Martinez came on to strike out Darryl Motley and end the inning. When Martinez walked Brett to start the eighth, Weaver wasted no time calling for Aase, who had pitched three shutout innings Saturday.
Aase, in fact, has allowed only five earned runs in his last 14 appearances (21 innings).
"Aase was outstanding," Weaver said. "Two performances like that, back-to-back. He's been just awesome."
Aase, who earned his fourth save, spent quite a while getting his arm iced, after throwing fast balls that moved so well they looked like sliders. "Wish I could do that with the fast ball more often," he said. "I need a day off tomorrow, but the only ache is in the muscle, which is good."