Mike Young's bases-loaded single through an unusual five-man infield in the ninth inning gave the Baltimore Orioles a 4-3 victory over the California Angels tonight in an unusual game.
Young grounded the ball between first baseman Bob Grich and the bag after California Manager Gene Mauch removed his right fielder and inserted Gus Polidor as a fifth infielder between first and second.
The winning pitcher was reliever Don Aase, the former Angel who maintained a 3-3 tie in the top of the inning by striking out pinch hitters Reggie Jackson and Ruppert Jones with a runner on third.
The victory gave the Orioles sole possession of third place in the American League East, one game ahead of Detroit and 11 1/2 behind first-place Toronto.
The Angels, who had five sacrifice bunts, fell 1 1/2 games behind first-place Kansas City in the AL West. One sacrifice came in the ninth, after Juan Beniquez led off with a double. Grich, the cleanup batter who had two hits earlier, laid down the bunt before Aase left pinch runner Devon White standing on third.
Lee Lacy, who had sat out the last two games while commuting to Pittsburgh for a cocaine trial in which he has yet to testify, opened the bottom half with a single off the Angels' ace reliever, Donnie Moore. Lacy stole second but was forced to stop at third when Cal Ripken's liner, ticketed for center field, struck the mound and was knocked down by shortstop Craig Gerber. The hit nevertheless extended Ripken's hitting streak to 14 games, currently the longest in the AL.
Mauch chose to walk Eddie Murray, who had broken out of a one-for-25 slump with a fifth-inning homer, his 25th. Mauch then inserted rookie Polidor, and Young got his winning hit.
"I've used five infielders a lot of times, but it's the worst play in the game to have to use because it means the winning run is on third and none out," Mauch said.
The game contained some strange plays, and one that will not soon be forgotten occurred when center fielder Gary Pettis made a sliding catch of Alan Wiggins' sixth-inning blooper to left center and, while sitting on the grass, made a perfect one-hop throw that doubled John Shelby off first.
For most of the night, the game seemed a contest between the Orioles and California starter Mike Witt, to see who could play giveaway most successfully.
The Angels scored in the first against Scott McGregor on a fumbled grounder by shortstop Ripken and a dropped line drive by center fielder Shelby, who atoned for that error with four hits. California's second run, produced by Pettis' RBI single in the third, also was unearned, because it was preceded by second baseman Wiggins' bobble.
Witt walked three batters in the first and two in the third, when Young's two-out single finally brought a run home.
In the fourth, Shelby singled and stole second. He then scored on a single by Wiggins to make it 2-2.
Witt was bedeviled by Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver, who persuaded the umpires to have the pitcher's T-shirt scissored down because it occasionally was slipping below his uniform.
In the seventh inning, after the Angels had pulled into a 3-3 tie on Grich's RBI single, California filled the bases with two out. Pettis chopped a foul down the third-base line and Grich, running home in foul territory, scooped up the ball. Umpire Durwood Merrill had ruled it foul somewhat prematurely and refused to call Grich out, prompting Weaver to protest the game under rule 709 (c), which says a batter or runner deliberately deflecting a foul ball should be called out. Pettis then struck out.
The result, of course, nullified the protest.