This night, the Baltimore Orioles' bats stayed mostly silent, and their starting pitcher came up with a sore elbow in the second inning.
All that did was give the American League's best bullpen a chance, and it responded once more. Nate Snell pitched six shutout innings in relief of Mike Flanagan, and Eddie Murray drove in two runs with sacrifice flies as the Orioles beat the California Angels, 3-0, before 47,587 at Anaheim Stadium.
By winning for the 16th time in 19 games, the Orioles finally got something to show for it, because Boston's loss in Minneapolis moved Baltimore, which is 28-17, within 2 1/2 games of first place in the American League East.
The Orioles had to scratch for this one because they didn't hit a home run for the first time in 14 games and had nine singles and two doubles off Ron Romanick (3-2).
Flanagan left the game after two innings with a "tightness in his left elbow," the club said, and Manager Earl Weaver had to go to his bullpen.
Which is the best move he has. In this stretch, that bullpen has gone 7-0 with eight saves and a 1.44 ERA. Tonight, Snell (2-0) bettered Brad Havens' 4 2/3 scoreless shutout innings Thursday, going six and allowing the Angels only four hits, all singles.
"My sinker was working real well for some reason," he said. "It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing, but I was really sharp. In that situation, I'm just trying to keep the ball in the park and the game close, so I did my job."
"Nate has been outstanding," Weaver said. "That's our first shutout, right? With the way we've been going, you figured it would take four pitchers to get it. That's okay. It's nice to finally gain some ground on those other teams."
Tippy Martinez started the ninth, but Don Aase finished it for his league-leading 13th save of the year. It was Martinez's first appearance since April 19.
The game was scoreless until Murray's first sacrifice fly scored Lee Lacy for a 1-0 lead in the sixth.
Then in the seventh, the Orioles made it 2-0 by loading the bases on singles by Alan Wiggins, Lacy and Fred Lynn and getting another sacrifice fly to Murray.
In the ninth. Mike Young doubled, Rick Dempsey was hit by a pitch, Wiggins was safe on second baseman Bobby Grich's error and Lacy's sacrifice fly made it 3-0.
Although the Orioles had only 11 hits, they were bunched at the top with Lacy and Lynn getting three each.
Weaver had rearranged his starting rotation so that both his left-handers, Scott McGregor and Flanagan, would face the Angels, who are 3-12 against lefties and 19-12 against right-handers. That strategy didn't hold up any longer than Flanagan's elbow. He made his shortest appearance this season, going two innings and allowing one hit.
"I've been pitching with this pain in my elbow for about three starts, and it got very stiff tonight," he said. "I had the doctors here look at it, and they say it's just a little tender. They think it's all in the muscles, which heal faster than the tendons and all that. There was no sense pushing it. I knew we were only going to score three runs, and Nate had told me he wanted to get into the game."
He remains the Orioles' hard-luck pitcher, having not won since April 17, a stretch of eight starts that has seen the Orioles score three or fewer runs four times.
Weaver brought in Snell to start the third inning, and from there, the game became one of cat-and-mouse. Angels Manager Gene Mauch didn't want to bring in his left-handed hitters immediately, figuring that Weaver would come back with left-hander Martinez, and the Angels would be out of players. Mauch made his first move to lead off the fourth when he sent up Reggie Jackson to bat for designated hitter Rick Burleson, and Jackson lined a single to center.
That was about all the Angels got off Snell in his first four innings. Jackson was the only runner he allowed in that time, except for Brian Downing, who was safe on third baseman Juan Beniquez's fifth error in three games.
In his 12 games at third, Beniquez has made eight errors, causing Weaver to remark that Floyd Rayford probably would play Saturday night.
The second hit off Snell came when rookie Wally Joyner led off the seventh with a single to center, but Downing hit a one-hopper back at Snell, who threw to Wiggins at second to start a double play.
Snell was back in trouble seconds later. After Doug DeCinces walked, George Hendrick grounded a single to left. Yet, Snell got out of that one, too, by getting Grich to hit a hard grounder to Ripken at short.
Meanwhile, the Orioles had all kinds of chances off Romanick but hit into two double plays and left two men on third in the first five innings.
Their best chance was in the fourth; Lacy singled to right and Lynn walked. But Murray grounded into a double play, and with Lacy on third, Cal Ripken grounded out.
Then in the fifth, Larry Sheets doubled off the center field wall and was bunted to third by Beniquez. But, with the lead run on third and one out, Mike Young grounded out and Rick Dempsey flied to center to end the fifth with the game still scoreless.
Former Orioles infielder Todd Cruz, just released from a drug rehabilitation center, visited Anaheim Stadium tonight to ask the Orioles if he could work out with them. Peters told him no thanks.