The Texas Rangers have a hard enough time winning as it is without giving a game away.
The Baltimore Orioles, who got a sterling performance from pitcher Ken Dixon, gladly accepted the parting gift from their visitors and rolled to a 9-2 victory before an announced crowd of 10,749 at Memorial Stadium. The Orioles have won six straight, including four in a row over the hapless Rangers, and are 10 1/2 games behind first-place Toronto in the American League East as they face an eight-game trip that begins Tuesday in Seattle.
During the six-game winning streak, the Orioles' starters are 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA. The entire staff during that stretch has a 2.33 ERA.
The Rangers had three errors today, including two in the fifth inning when the Orioles sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs. At other times this season, the Orioles might not have held that lead. Recent days, though, have marked a resurgence in their pitching, which had been the Achilles' heel of the team. Today it was Dixon's turn, after Sunday's game, with Mike Boddicker on the mound with a 6-0 lead, was washed out in the third inning.
"Maybe we have the pitching worked out and maybe we don't," Manager Earl Weaver said, "but it sure has been coming around the last eight or nine games. If we had had this early we wouldn't be where we are, but then again, I don't think we're that far out. We're six behind New York and we can catch them because we have to play them again. It's up to them to catch Toronto."
Dixon was making his first start since July 12, which was also the date of his last victory.
"I haven't seen you guys in a while," he said, smiling at reporters. He had a career-high eight strikeouts, all in the first four innings. "I got people out on early counts, though," he said of the later innings.
"I threw only one breaking ball in the last three innings. Earl said that when Jim Palmer had gotten a big lead, he would go with his fast ball until he got hurt. And I didn't get hurt."
Weaver already has the trip -- Seattle (three games), Oakland (three) and California (two) -- mapped out.
"I'd like to come home and have picked up two or three on New York, and three or four on Toronto," he said. "Maybe win two of three, two of three again, throw in an extra game or two. We probably need to win six of eight. Normally, I'd say .500, but it's so late."
The Rangers scored first, thanks to Gary Ward's ninth home run of the year, in the second inning. It would be Dixon's only big mistake.
"A hanging breaking ball right down the middle," catcher Rick Dempsey said.
The Rangers made it 2-0 in the fifth. George Wright led off with a single, and Steve Buechele walked. Dixon got Geno Petralli on a 6-4-3 double play, but that left Wright at third with two out. Curtis Wilkerson singled Wright home.
That was the last of the fun for the Rangers, whose pitchers now must face the Boston Red Sox, the AL's top hitting team, in Fenway Park.
The Orioles, who lead the league in home runs with 150, finally responded in the fifth. And it was a rather forceful response.
After Alan Wiggins led off with a walk, Lee Lacy singled. Cal Ripken's single to center scored Wiggins. Lacy then stole third -- "It's a good play only if he makes it," Weaver said -- and Petralli's throw went into the left field corner when Buechele didn't get to the bag in time. That allowed Lacy to score and Ripken to go to third.
That was the end for Texas starter Mike Mason (5-12). Greg Harris was no better. Eddie Murray singled into the right field corner for his 90th RBI of the year. Harris then walked Mike Young and Jim Dwyer, who pinch-hit and then played left field for starter Gary Roenicke.
Harris was on his way to walking home a run with a 2-0 count on Floyd Rayford when Manager Bobby Valentine brought in Dwayne Henry, who struck out Rayford.
With one out, the bases still loaded and Dempsey up, bad luck fell in the lap of the Rangers. Dempsey hit what normally would have been an inning-ending double play grounder to Buechele. But Buechele's throw toward Toby Harrah at second hit Young and went into center field. Murray and Young scored, Dwyer took third and Dempsey was safe at first. Dwyer then scored the Orioles' sixth run when Wiggins singled.
The Orioles got three more runs, all with two out in the eighth off reliever Dave Schmidt. Murray singled, Young walked, and Dwyer tripled to left-center field. Center fielder Oddibe McDowell dived for the ball but found only air in the webbing as the ball rolled to the wall. Dwyer scored on Rayford's smash that Buechele knocked down but had no play on.
Fred Lynn sat out Sunday's three innings and today's game because of ligament damage on the outside of his left ankle, but he said he will play against Seattle Tuesday . . . Young, named co-winner of the American League's Player of the Week award today, was the only Oriole not to get a hit today.
The announced attendance included about 8,500 season ticketholders, most of whom didn't show up for the game, which was rescheduled to make up Sunday's rainout