This was the kind of game that drives a manager to chain-smoke in the tunnel.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning tonight, Carlton Fisk hit a two-run triple over Fred Lynn's head in center field to score Harold Baines from third base and Greg Walker from first to give the Chicago White Sox a 9-8 victory over the Baltimore Orioles before 31,099.
Baltimore held a five-run lead after three innings and took an 8-7 lead into the ninth on the strength of Eddie Murray's 17th homer and three-hit performances by Alan Wiggins and Floyd Rayford, who became the regular third baseman tonight.
Baltimore reliever Sammy Stewart recorded the first out in the ninth, but gave up a double to Baines. Manager Earl Weaver, who had been pacing up and down the dugout, went out to the mound and called for Don Aase, whose last three relief appearances had been splendid.
Aase got Walker to hit a grounder so weak that by the time Wiggins got to the ball behind the pitcher's mound, Walker was crossing first base with an infield single.
Aase got a 2-2 count on Fisk, the major leagues' leading home run hitter, before he hit the next pitch 400 feet to center field. Walker came all the way from first with the winning run, easily beating Cal Ripken's relay throw from short center field.
Many Chicago fans stood and called for Fisk until he came out of the clubhouse and took a full bow on the top step of the dugout.
Aase's record dropped to 5-5. Chicago reliever Cy Agosto (2-1) was credited with the win.
The loss, in addition to being frustrating in itself for Baltimore, dropped the Orioles 10 1/2 games behind first-place Toronto in the American League East.
"When you get the kind of cushion we had, there's no reason to get yourself in a jam like that," Weaver said, taking one more puff from a cigarette. " . . . It all boils down to getting the job done, and we didn't."
Aase (5-5) said he wanted to try to strike out Fisk on a high fast ball, which was a good idea in theory since Fisk barely had gotten around in fouling off the previous two high fast balls.
But, as Rayford would say later, "This is just Fisk's year. The man is doing everything right."
Fisk said he thought Aase's fast ball tonight was the best he'd seen it since Aase hurt his arm in 1983.
"He came with his best pitch, and I just barely fouled off the third one to stay alive," Fisk said. "I finally got on top of one. But I was really concerned with getting the run in from third to tie the game, then see what we could do from there."
Fisk didn't have to wait for extra innings. The ball he hit kept going, and so did Lynn. "I think it surprised Freddie a little bit. I knew the run from third would score, but Walker read it real good. He anticipated perfectly. He was already around second base waiting to see how the play developed."
Fisk said it was "nice to return the favor" to the Orioles, who scored four runs with two out in the ninth to beat Chicago two weeks ago in Baltimore.
The loss certainly wasn't all Aase's fault. Dennis Martinez had another terrible outing, giving up six runs (four of them earned) in 3 1/3 innings. Tippy Martinez gave up one run, but stood to get the victory if the 8-7 lead had held up.
Ken Dixon and Stewart even pitched shutout ball for four innings after Chicago had rallied for four runs in the fourth to come within 7-5.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first on a run-scoring grounder by Murray. Chicago went ahead with two in the first on an RBI double by Baines, who, in turn, scored on a double by Fisk.
But Baltimore countered with six runs in the next two innings for a 7-2 lead. Wiggins and Lee Lacy (two hits) drove in two runs in the second and Murray's home run off the upper deck in left center started the four-run third that continued with a two-run single by Rayford and another RBI single by Lacy.
The game seemingly was over.
Baltimore even got a break in the fourth, when Mark Gilbert's apparent three-run triple -- which would have brought Chicago within 7-6 -- was ruled to be a two-run ground-rule double because the ball stuck underneath a pad along the right field wall.
Bryan Little's sacrifice fly, instead of scoring the tying run, drove in the run that made it 7-6.
Tippy Martinez got Baines to ground out and end that inning. And when the Orioles added a run in the fifth, on another RBI single by Wiggins, a third straight victory seemed locked up because Stewart and Aase had been nearly invincible in their last three outings.
Weaver, perhaps tired of searching for answers, shook his head again and said, "Well, we'll take a look at Storm Davis tomorrow and see what happens then."