On this cool, cloudy afternoon, Storm Davis breezed through the Texas Rangers so effortlessly, with so much poise and grace, that the Baltimore Orioles again could remember the expectations they've almost always had for him.
Pitching for the first time in nine days, Davis threw a four-hit complete game and allowed just five base runners as the Orioles beat the Rangers, 6-1, before 22,554 at Memorial Stadium.
He needed 115 pitches, using almost all fastballs in the final three innings, to run his career record against Texas to 8-0 and complete his first game of the season in 2 hours 20 minutes.
He got plenty of support as the Orioles followed a 10-run, 14-hit game Saturday night with an 11-hit game today. First baseman Eddie Murray continued a remarkable resurgence by singling in the fourth inning and breaking the game open with a two-run homer in the fifth off starter Jose Guzman (1-2).
In four games, Murray has gone nine for 16 with three homers and 10 RBI and raised his average from .094 to .250.
Orioles designated hitter Jim Dwyer hit a third-inning homer, catcher John Stefero had two hits and Mike Young scored on Juan Bonilla's squeeze bunt in the eighth. At 7-5, the Orioles remain tied with Boston for second in the American League East, a half game behind the New York Yankees.
Davis, 24, came into the game with what Manager Earl Weaver called "a built-in alibi." After pitching on a steady five-day rotation in spring training, he hadn't been used in nine days and was so strong in the early innings that he could make his curveball do nothing more than spin.
But he still was excellent, allowing only one base runner the first four innings and two the last four. He got 21 of the Rangers' 27 outs on strikeouts, popups or groundouts.
The only run off him was in the fifth when catcher Darrell Porter homered, and only one other runner got to second base. That was designated hitter Larry Parrish, who followed Porter's homer with an opposite-field double that squibbed down the right field line.
During a winter of work with Orioles Coach Elrod Hendricks, Davis was told to: (a) work faster, which he did; and (b) work slowly after giving up a cheap hit, something that has plagued him in the past.
"We talked about stepping off the mound and thinking the situation over," Hendricks said. "The thing he has done before is rush back to the mound, and out of frustration or whatever, make a bad pitch."
Davis said he did exactly what Hendricks told him to do and got out of the inning by striking out George Wright and getting third baseman Geno Petralli and second baseman Scott Fletcher on groundouts to shortstop Cal Ripken. He never was in trouble after that, retiring 15 of the last 17 hitters he faced (one was safe on Ripken's error).
"After a week off, I was inwardly pumped up for the game," Davis said. "I don't usually get too nervous, but I was today because it had been a while between starts. I know Texas is a good fastball-hitting team, and I wasn't getting the curveball over until about the third. I wanted to work fast because we've had two long games, and I wanted to keep the guys on their toes."
Weaver said Davis "looked like Jim Palmer. In the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, when the game was in the bank, he went with No. 1, his fastball. That's his best pitch, and he just showed 'em the others, just enough to get them to thinking."
After a terrible start in 1985, a start that had some in the Orioles' front office wondering if they'd overestimated the talents that got him to the big leagues at the age of 20, Davis has gone 6-1 since Aug. 10, and even with Mike Boddicker on the disabled list, the Orioles have another reason to be encouraged about their 1986 pitching.
"He can dominate this league like Dwight Gooden dominates the National League," Weaver said. "Maybe he was brought up too early. Twenty is awfully young and he might just be maturing now."
This afternoon's game was close for only a while. Dwyer's first home run of the season gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the first, and they made it 2-0 in the fourth on singles by Ripken and Murray and Fred Lynn's sacrifice fly.
Porter's homer brought the Rangers to 2-1 in the fifth, but the Orioles broke it open with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Stefero opened with a single, and Alan Wiggins followed with a double to right. Stefero was waved home, but the relay throw from second baseman Fletcher was in plenty of time to get him at the plate.
Wiggins went to third on Fletcher's throw and scored on John Shelby's single to right. Shelby then stole his fifth base of the year, and after Ripken grounded out, Murray hit his third homer in four days, a shot over the center field wall.
"I was hoping Murray would stay in a slump for 12 more at-bats," Rangers Manager Bobby Valentine said. "Hoping didn't work. Guzman wasn't overthrowing. He was getting too many balls down. He has to come up."
Murray's grand slam Saturday was the 13th of his career, which ties him with Joe DiMaggio and Ralph Kiner for ninth place on the all-time list. Among players with 10 or more, Murray has the second-best grand slams-to-games played ratio. He has hit one per 105 games, the only better ratio was by Lou Gehrig (one per 94 games) . . .
After going eight games without an RBI, Murray leads the Orioles with 10 . . . Shelby and second baseman Wiggins each are five for five in stolen bases this year. The Orioles have 12 stolen bases in 12 games. Last season, they didn't get their 12th steal until game No. 59 . . .
Guzman has a 4-4 career record, but it breaks down this way: 4-1 with a 1.66 ERA at Arlington Stadium; 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA on the road.