Bret Saberhagen had lost back-to-back starts for the first time in two seasons, but on this cool, breezy Missouri night he was Cy Young tough, nipping fastballs at the corners, the letters and the knees.
As Baltimore's Mike Flanagan got hit hard again, Saberhagen (2-2) tossed a tidy 10-hit shutout, and the Kansas City Royals started this series with a 5-0 victory over the Orioles before 27,691 at Royals Stadium.
In losing for the sixth time in nine games and dropping to 10-11, the Orioles had no base runner as far as third and didn't get a leadoff hitter on base until the eighth.
"Same old Saberhagen, if you ask me," Orioles left fielder Mike Young said. "He seemed to be changing speeds a lot more with all his pitches, even his curveball. But he still has that great control and knows what he's trying to do out there."
There had been all sorts of stories here about Saberhagen's 1-2 start, including several about the Cy Young Award jinx. No American League Cy Young winner has come back with a winning record since 1979 winner Flanagan. Saberhagen had told almost everyone who asked: "I have no idea what the problem is."
Tonight, there was none. He was the same pitcher who helped the Royals win the World Series, as he stood on the mound flicking his tongue and beating the Orioles with an assortment of low fastballs and wicked sliders in his second complete game of the season.
"He had a good fastball and was throwing his other pitches in the strike zone," Royals Manager Dick Howser said. "That meant the hitter couldn't sit on a fastball."
Flanagan (1-3) lasted three batters into the third inning and allowed the Royals three runs on four hits and four walks, with three of the four walked batters eventually scoring.
The Orioles then got five innings of four-hit relief by Nate Snell, but he allowed George Brett and Frank White home runs in the fifth.
The rest of the news for the Orioles was all bad. Reliever Dennis Martinez has come up with a sore arm and probably will join pitchers Mike Boddicker and Tippy Martinez on the 21-day disabled list.
Further, reliever Rich Bordi couldn't pitch tonight because of a twisted back.
Manager Earl Weaver is scuffling so much for pitchers that he'll have Storm Davis in the bullpen tonight, with another pitcher arriving from Class AAA Rochester in time for Sunday's game.
"Davis is a godsend," Weaver said. "The plan is to disable Dennis right now, but we're going to wait on Bordi. He said he may be able to pitch in a day or two. This is something he has had before."
The Royals got a 1-0 lead in the second inning and might have had more had center fielder Fred Lynn not made a couple of terrific plays. Flanagan walked Steve Balboni to open the inning, and Hal McRae lined a single to right, with Balboni chugging around to third.
Flanagan then got behind 3-1 before Jim Sundberg lined a pitch into the alley in left-center. Lynn sprinted over, made a leaping catch and crashed into the wall.
Balboni tagged up and scored to make it 1-0 before Lynn made another good play, going into right-center to run down Lynn Jones' drive. Angel Salazar lined a single to left, and Flanagan walked Darryl Motley to load the bases.
But on the edge of disaster, he got Willie Wilson on a flyout to right to end the inning.
Flanagan lasted only three batters into the third, and they were quick ones. He handed walks to Brett and White, and when Balboni slapped an RBI double down the left-field line to make it 2-0, Flanagan was gone.
"I changed a couple of things in my delivery to help the breaking ball and it threw everything out of whack," Flanagan said. "This is one of the few times in my career I had trouble throwing the ball over the plate, and I think I'll cancel the adjustment. I'll go back to the old cliche about it still being early. I can get straightened out."
The start was Flanagan's third bad one in a row, and he has pitched only 13 innings in this stretch, allowing 21 hits, 10 earned runs, 10 walks and four strikeouts (a 6.92 ERA).
In six starts, he has been knocked out in the third inning twice, the sixth twice, the seventh once and the eighth once.
Snell retired six straight hitters before Brett and White opened the fifth with back-to-back homers to make it 5-0.
Given a lead, Saberhagen held off the Orioles, allowing 11 base runners and leaving all of them on base.
The only time he had anything resembling trouble was in the second and fourth innings.
In the second, Larry Sheets and Floyd Rayford got two-out singles. Saberhagen struck out John Stefero to end that.
Then in the fourth, Alan Wiggins got a two-out single, and after he stole second, Saberhagen walked Lee Lacy. But he got Cal Ripken on a grounder to second baseman White to end the inning.