An ugly game got an ugly reception tonight as a Memorial Stadium crowd of 29,873 watched the Baltimore Orioles serve up five home-run pitches, commit four errors and blow a three-run lead.
These Orioles haven't been booed very often in this stadium, but tonight, on the way to a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals, they were several times.
The most notable came in the top of the eighth inning when Argenis Salazar's grounder scooted under first baseman Eddie Murray's mitt and into left field.
Murray had dropped a low throw from shortstop Cal Ripken in the fifth inning, but on this night, errors were only part of the Orioles' problems.
Their biggest is the American League East standings, in which they are buried in fifth place, 5 1/2 games out of first.
And, at 12-14, the Orioles have lost nine of their last 14 games and are two games under .500 for the first time this season.
"Am I concerned about winning the pennant?" Orioles Manager Earl Weaver asked. "No. We've got just as good a chance as we did when we came to the park tonight. We can't win playing like this, but I don't expect us to play like this.
"If we do, I'll have to get out of here because I can't watch this. Not when people you have confidence in do this."
Their main problem this night was the five home runs, four against Ken Dixon (3-2), who allowed only five hits in five innings but helped blow a 4-1 first-inning lead.
Willie Wilson, Jim Sundberg, George Brett and Darryl Motley connected off Dixon, who has allowed eight home runs in only 37 innings and seven in 7 2/3 innings in his last two home starts. The Royals tied a club record of five in a game when Motley connected again, off Rich Bordi in the seventh inning.
"I don't think they're that good," Dixon said. "If they are they should win a lot more games. Brett hit a 3-2 change-up, the kind of pitch I'd gotten him out on before. Motley hit a pitch down and in. Sundberg did hit a curveball that was up, but that wasn't going to cost me the game. . . .
"I don't know what's wrong, but I'll do everything in my power to correct it."
The Orioles had only five hits off three pitchers, and Buddy Black and Steve Farr combined for 8 2/3 innings of two-hit shutout relief.
"Relief pitching and home runs were the difference," Royals Manager Dick Howser said. "Blackie was remarkable. Our guys just shut them down completely."
Wilson led off the game with a homer for a 1-0 lead, but that didn't last long as Mark Gubicza lasted only 34 pitches and allowed the Orioles four runs, their biggest inning in the last 56.
Gubicza faced seven batters, and allowed three hits and three walks. Alan Wiggins led off with a walk, and John Shelby followed with a single to left. Wiggins went to third on the hit, and Shelby stole second. The stolen base got Shelby into scoring position, and Ripken's single to right scored both runners for a 2-1 lead.
Murray forced Ripken at second for the only out Gubicza would get, but he promptly walked Fred Lynn and Juan Beniquez to load the bases.
Larry Sheets grounded a two-run single just past second baseman Frank White, and the Orioles had a 4-1 lead.
Howser went for Black, one of the heroes of last fall's AL playoffs, and Black had one of his best games of the season, pitching 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball and allowing only two hits and three walks.
The Royals did get back in it as Dixon continued to make his worst pitches at the worst possible times. One was when he led off the fifth by hanging a breaking pitch to Sundberg, who hit it into the left field seats to close the game to 4-2.
Another came four batters later, after Wilson had singled and stole second. This time, he got a change-up over the middle of the plate, and Brett clobbered it over the right field wall for a 4-4 tie.
The homer was Brett's sixth, but not the last Dixon would allow. The next was two batters later, when Motley hit it to lead off the sixth and give the Royals a 5-4 lead.
"I had a feeling he would try to get ahead of me with a fastball," Motley said. "He threw four straight balls to me before. The second one was a hanging slider."
Weaver went for Bordi, who allowed another run for a 6-4 Kansas City lead after six. He got the first two batters he faced, but Salazar walked with two outs, went to third on Wilson's bloop single in front of left fielder Mike Young and scored on Rudy Law's single.
An inning later, in the seventh, Bordi grooved a pitch to Motley, who hit it over the wall in left-center for a 7-4 lead.
The Orioles had some chances off Black, loading the bases in the third on two walks and a hit batsman, but Rick Dempsey lined to Brett at third.
They had another chance when Murray led off the fifth with a double, but Black got Lynn, Beniquez and Lee Lacy in order. The Orioles hit into double plays to end the sixth and seventh.
As expected, the Orioles sent pitcher Bill Swaggerty back to Class AAA Rochester after the game and put Mike Boddicker back on the roster. He is to start Saturday against the Royals.
*Twins 8, Tigers 7: Gary Gaetti drove in four runs with a homer and a single and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning on Chuck Cary's wild pitch, lifting Minnesota past visiting Detroit.
*Brewers 16, Angels 5: In Anaheim, Calif., Cecil Cooper drove in five runs with a single and a pair of homers, including a three-run shot during a seven-run third inning, as Milwaukee totaled 18 hits against four California pitchers.
*Red Sox 9, A's 6: Wade Boggs' bases-loaded sacrifice fly with none out in the 10th inning triggered a four-run outburst that led Boston to victory in Oakland.
Oakland's Carney Lansford had tied the game with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off Bob Stanley (1-1), who had relieved starter Roger Clemens.
Clemens, who set a major league record last week with 20 strikeouts against Seattle, struck out 11.
*Yankees-Rangers, ppd.: New York's game in Arlington, Tex., was rained out and will be played as part of a doubleheader Sunday.