After two strange losses, the Baltimore Orioles won today because Eddie Murray, of all people, took an extra base; because a bloop single, of all things, fell in, and because the other team, finally, played kick-the-can with a baseball.
So another odd day in north Texas ended with the Orioles stopping a two-game losing streak by beating the Rangers, 3-2, before 20,424 at Arlington Stadium.
They won on a day when their silent bats produced only seven hits -- five of them singles, none of them homers -- and when a hazy gray sky made Texas rookie Jose Guzman's slider look .38-caliber perfect. They won ugly, but their manager wouldn't argue.
"The droppeth ball giveth and the droppeth ball taketh away," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said after reliever Don Aase retired the last four Rangers for his first save of 1986.
A night earlier, Murray dropped a pickoff throw at first base to give the Rangers a victory, and Friday, the Orioles booted the ball twice on one play for a Texas victory. As Aase was coming off the field after the eighth today, a fan yelled: "Hey, why didn't you try the pickoff play again?"
When Aase and Murray missed connections on a pickoff Friday, the Orioles started to unravel. Aase said: "It's one thing to give up a hit and lose. But to beat yourself, that's terrible."
This afternoon, with 25-mph winds swirling through the stadium, the Rangers made the big mistake. The Orioles, who had only three hits the first six innings, were down by 2-0 and appeared to be cruising toward their third straight loss with Toronto's Doyle Alexander awaiting them Monday in cold, cold Canada.
Then, when the seventh inning opened, they got a break. Texas first baseman Pete O'Brien let Murray's hard grounder skip through his legs for an error.
Center fielder Fred Lynn followed with a single to left field, and Murray, inexplicably, rounded second and headed for third. Gary Ward's throw was late, and the throw allowed Lynn to go to second.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Murray said. "I think I can steal 20 or 30 bases if I get the steal sign from Earl. Well, I do have to get to first base first, and I'm not doing too well at that [hitting .130]."
Murray taking the extra base gave the Orioles a run because designated hitter Jim Dwyer followed by skipping a ball down the line. O'Brien made a nice backhanded stab and threw to Guzman for the out, but Murray scored to make it 2-1.
With Lynn on third and one out, Guzman got out of the inning by striking out John Shelby and getting Mike Young on a flyout to left.
Guzman was back in trouble in the eighth, walking second baseman Alan Wiggins (hitting .115) with one out. Right fielder Lee Lacy grounded a hit-and-run single to right, and Wiggins went to third.
With shortstop Cal Ripken up, Lacy promptly stole second, and Ripken blooped a two-run single just inside the right field line and 30 feet behind first base for a 3-2 Baltimore lead. Wiggins scored on the play, and right fielder Pete Incaviglia's throw was in time to get Lacy, who collided with catcher Don Slaught and somehow knocked the ball away.
"That guy [Incaviglia] came up with a strong throw," Lacy said. "I hit the catcher and I think my leg hit the ball. I know I hit my crazy bone [his right elbow], and it stung like the devil."
Ripken said: "We needed a break. If that was a break, we needed it."
Orioles starter Scott McGregor (1-0) needed it, too, as he yielded eight hits over 7 2/3 innings, allowing only two runs and no walks. The wind may have helped him in keeping Incaviglia's first-inning flyout in the park, but it also hurt him by playing havoc with his curveball.
A year after the Orioles hit everything and couldn't get anyone out, they have won three games because their staff ERA is 2.73. They've lost three games because their team batting average is .232 (.167 with runners in scoring position).
McGregor was in trouble only twice. The Rangers scored in the second on singles by designated hitter Larry Parrish, Slaught and shortstop Curtis Wilkerson, and scored in the sixth on O'Brien's double and Ward's single to center.
But other than those two innings, the Rangers never had more than one runner on base, and when Incaviglia drilled a two-out double to left in the eighth, Weaver went for Aase for the fourth time in six games.
"We've pitched well the last four weeks," McGregor said, "but even if you're going badly, you can't worry about it. We've got to go out and do the things we've done in the past. Everyone is working on the little things and on paying attention when we're on the mound."
After the game, Weaver again railed at the evils of a 24-man roster, saying: "It's a bunch of [blank]. I know one thing, you're limited with it, and you have to do things that ordinarily wouldn't be done." He was upset because after he had pinch-hit for starting catcher John Stefero and used Larry Sheets as a pinch hitter, he had to leave Sheets in the game as the right fielder "in case [Rick] Dempsey gets a foul tip on the finger and has to come out. Sheets is the only other guy who can catch."