After almost two months of throwing more change-ups, throwing fewer change-ups, playing with this windup, then that one, the Baltimore Orioles' Scott McGregor rediscovered his magic tonight.
In style. He pitched an eight-hitter -- his team's first complete game since April 29 -- and got help from first baseman Eddie Murray's three-run home run as the Orioles beat the Oakland A's, 8-2, before 28,541 at Memorial Stadium.
McGregor (3-3) had a bad 1985 season and had started badly this season, but he has strung together back-to-back good starts. Tonight he allowed only one extra-base hit and, incredibly, threw none of his 139 pitches faster than 81 mph.
If anyone gives the Orioles confidence that they will be back in a pennant race, McGregor does.
"He's been doing the same thing consistently for a long time," Oakland Manager Jackie Moore said. "He's always given us problems [11-3 for his career]. When you give him the lead, you know he's going to take advantage of it. He kept changing speeds and keeping our hitters off balance."
McGregor was in all kinds of early trouble. He allowed a run in the first inning and had the bases loaded in the third before he got first baseman Carney Lansford on a pop-up to Fred Lynn to end the inning.
After that, he appeared to be the same pitcher who went 78-38 in the five seasons before 1984. He would have allowed only one run had third baseman Juan Beniquez not allowed an RBI single by Lansford to slip under his glove in the eighth.
Meanwhile, the Orioles did not get many hits -- eight -- but they made them count. They had two from Lee Lacy, including a two-run single in the second, when they knocked Oakland starter Rick Langford (1-4) out with four runs.
So after having their six-game winning streak broken Friday, the Orioles again went four games over .500 (19-15) and stayed within 2 1/2 games of first place in the American League.
"You just try to keep it going," McGregor said. "I don't want to stop until October. We're getting back in the habit of winning, and that's what you work for. Have we turned the corner? I don't know. I haven't seen the map. Somewhere along the way, we can look back and see where we turned the corner."
McGregor also pitched the Orioles' last complete game, in Chicago, but struggled, at first, in this one. The A's had five base runners in the first two innings, but after that, McGregor allowed only one more hit until the eighth, when the A's scored their second run on a walk and singles by Dave Kingman and Lansford.
He allowed two more singles in the ninth, and Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said, "He was barbecued in the ninth. He was one batter away from coming out, and I know he was tired. But that's good. Now we know he can go 139 pitches and nine innings."
The Orioles have another reason to feel good about 1986: Murray. Right on schedule, he has started to hit again. He has gone six for 11 in the last three games.
He started to hit at this time last season, and in the last three games, he has raised his average from .230 to .258. He still is experimenting with eyeglasses -- he wears them during batting practice and off the field -- but he said he did not yet feel comfortable with them on the field.
He did drop a pop fly tonight, but he also hit his sixth homer of the year around the right field foul pole in the seventh.
"I don't know why it's taken this long to get going," he said. "Maybe we should start counting spring training. I'm still wearing gloves because my hands hurt, but I'm starting to feel more comfortable."
Weaver said, "He didn't hit that one as well as he can, but I think he should practice doing that once a night, just wrapping a homer inside the foul pole."
Murray: "He said that? That sounds like him, doesn't it?"
Langford lasted only 1 2/3 innings and allowed four hits, three walks and four runs. He hadn't pitched since May 9 because of a strained chest muscle, and he started tonight because Joaquin Andujar pulled a hamstring.
He didn't last long. He allowed the Orioles four runs and a 4-1 lead in the second.
Shortstop Cal Ripken led off with a double down the left field line and scored on designated hitter Larry Sheets' single to center. Beniquez flied out and Mike Young struck out, but the Orioles loaded the bases on Rick Dempsey's single and a walk to Alan Wiggins.
Lacy bounced a single to center to score two runs and make it 3-1, and Moore went for right-hander Eric Plunk, who promptly wild-pitched Wiggins home for a 4-1 Orioles lead.
Wiggins' speed made it 5-1 in the fifth when he led off with a single, stole his 10th and 11th bases and scored on Murray's sacrifice fly.
While McGregor continued to shut down the A's, the Orioles scored three runs off reliever Keith Atherton in the seventh when Lacy and Lynn singled and Murray hit his sixth homer of the season.
Oakland third baseman Tony Phillips had singles in his first two at-bats tonight to extend his consecutive-hits streak to seven at-bats, but the streak ended in the fifth when he was safe on Beniquez's error. He did single again in the ninth, giving him eight hits in two nights . . . McGregor's three walks tonight match his total in 37 innings and six previous starts.
As expected, Weaver benched third baseman Floyd Rayford and started Beniquez at third. He had planned to give Dempsey, in a four-for-27 slump, the night off, but will give him Sunday afternoon off instead.