After the four errors by the Baltimore Orioles and the four stolen bases by the Toronto Blue Jays and the relievers who didn't do their jobs, a doubleheader came down to Don Aase and Cliff Johnson playing 91-mph mind games in the ninth inning.
Aase, biting at the corners, lost. Johnson hit an 0-2 fastball into right field for a two-run single and the biggest hit of a long afternoon, the one that broke up a tie and helped give the Blue Jays to a 7-4 victory over the Orioles and a doubleheader split.
Johnson's hit came as evening's chill had settled over 19,251 fans at Exhibition Stadium and four hours after the Orioles got 6 2/3 strong innings from Mike Flanagan and a two-run homer from Cal Ripken to win the opener, 5-3.
The Orioles (5-4) flew back to Baltimore tonight after an odd 3-3 road trip, one that saw them lose two of three in Texas and win two in Toronto. Yet, even as they begin a three-game series with the Rangers Friday night at Memorial Stadium, they were left wondering what might have happened if catcher Rick Dempsey hadn't dropped a throw last Friday; if first baseman Eddie Murray hadn't dropped a pickoff Saturday; and if the Orioles hadn't made four errors and allowed four stolen bases in today's second game.
"All this, and we wound up with nothing," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said. "We've got to win three straight now to be where we're supposed to. Dammit, in spring training, I thought we'd be 6-3 now. We've got to get back to playing .667."
Who do they blame?
In the second game, they were cruising along with a 2-0 lead after Murray's first-inning single got him his first RBI of the season -- he later hit a two-run homer -- and John Shelby's third-inning double scored a second run.
But in the fifth inning, the Blue Jays made it 2-1 and started a pattern. With two outs, Orioles starter Ken Dixon walked leadoff man Lloyd Moseby, who promptly stole the first of the Blue Jays' four bases. He went to third on rookie catcher John Stefero's throwing error and scored on Tony Fernandez's infield hit.
Stefero was playing because, with Floyd Rayford on the disabled list, the Orioles only have two catchers, and Weaver didn't want Rick Dempsey to play a doubleheader.
"I played badly," said Stefero, who had two errors. "There's no excuse. Some of the guys had good leads, but I should have gotten the first one [Moseby]. Nothing else matters. My job is to back up Rick and if I don't do better, I won't be here long. I've got no excuses."
Weaver said he had some excuses.
"I don't think [Dixon] gave him much of a chance to throw 'em out," he said. "It's a little thing, but if you're going to be a 20-game winner in the major leagues, those are the games you have to win. I counted 1,001, 1,002, and that means the pitcher is taking too long. That's a big part of a two- or three-run game."
An inning later, Murray's error -- barely an error because he dropped a ball that was thrown out of a vicious afternoon sun -- put Kelly Gruber on first base. He stole second and scored on Rick Leach's single to right, tying it, 2-2.
Roll forward an inning after that, the seventh. Moseby singled to right and Fernandez sacrificed. Blue Jays Manager Jimy Williams, kicked out in the fifth inning, sent Johnson to bat for designated hitter Rance Mulliniks, and Weaver countered with reliever Rich Bordi, who had pitched 1 2/3 hitless innings in the first game.
Bordi fails this time, walking Johnson and Willie Upshaw to load the bases. Left fielder George Bell singled to center to score two runs, and Weaver goes for reliever Tippy Martinez, who gets out of the inning.
The Orioles were down by 4-2, but came back off reliever Tom Henke when Shelby singled and Murray hit his first homer of the season, far over the right field wall to make it 4-4.
In the eighth, though, nothing worked. With one out, Martinez walked rookie catcher Jeff Hearron, who was playing his first game this season.
Moseby then surprised everyone by beating out a bunt toward third, but Martinez got Fernandez to fly to right.
That brought up Johnson again, arguably the Blue Jays' best clutch hitter and one of the best in the game (.355 with runners in scoring position last year).
With Toronto's best up, Weaver went for his best, who happens to be a right-hander, and Johnson hit .230 against right-handers last year, .330 against left-handers.
Throwing down and away, Aase got two strikes on Johnson. His next move was high and inside, hoping Johnson would chase it. Aase missed, getting the ball over the plate, and Johnson drove it into right field to score pinch-runner Damaso Garcia.
Upshaw followed with a two-run triple, but Johnson's hit effectively finished the Orioles.
"His thinking was good," Weaver said. "Damn, he just missed. Johnson didn't hit it hard because, if he had, Shelby might have caught it."
Aase said: "It broke his bat, and he muscled it out there. I wanted to go inside a little more. I'd gotten two down and away, and I wanted to see if he'd chase something up and in. It wasn't a real bad pitch, but it could have been a little better."
Johnson: "It's good to see something positive come of this. I thought he'd try to keep it away, but I just got enough of it."
In the first game, the Orioles got five runs and six hits off starter Jimmy Key (0-1). Ripken's first homer this season provided a 2-0 lead in the first inning. It became 3-0 in the second on a single by designated hitter Juan Beniquez, walks to Mike Young and Juan Bonilla and a sacrifice fly by Alan Wiggins.
It went 5-0 in the fourth. Young got a one-out double and scored on Juan Bonilla's single to center. Wiggins was walked, and Lee Lacy scored Bonilla with a single to right.
That should have been the final score because Flanagan (1-0) breezed through six innings, allowing the Blue Jays only two runners.
"I had real good stuff," he said. "I really had it all going."
His trouble started in the seventh when Barfield got a one-out single and Upshaw lifted a fly ball into right-center field. Center fielder Fred Lynn and Lacy sprinted toward the ball and, although Lynn called for it, Lacy didn't get out of his way.
The result was that Lynn had an error, and Upshaw ended up at second and Barfield at third. Flanagan got Cecil Fielder to foul to Murray, but Garcia doubled to right for two runs.
"We were both hustling, and when the center fielder calls, I've got to let him have it," Lacy said. "I might have been too close."
When Garth Iorg followed with an RBI single to left to make it 5-3, Flanagan was gone. Weaver got 2 1/3 innings out of Bordi, Martinez and Aase to finish the game.