Ken Dixon tried a little laughter tonight in postgame discussions of his current instrument of self-torture, the home run ball, two of which he served up to the Seattle Mariners as they beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1.
"You're talking to an expert on home runs," Dixon said with a good-natured smile that masked his frustration. "I'm drawing people to the ballpark."
There were 18,047 customers at Memorial Stadium to see bases-empty home runs by Alvin Davis in the third inning and John Moses in the seventh. Those, and four hits and two RBI by Spike Owen, were more than enough for the Mariners, who got a solid, seven-hit complete game from right-hander Mike Moore (3-6).
Coming into the game, Dixon (5-3, 4.11 ERA after his stint tonight) was tied with Detroit's Jack Morris (who pitched at Oakland tonight) for second in the American League in home runs allowed, with 15. Dixon, at least for a while, moved into second alone, two back of Minnesota's Bert Blyleven, who has given up 19.
Pitching at home hasn't helped, either. At Memorial Stadium, Dixon has allowed 12 in his last 21 1/3 innings, including tonight's two in 6 1/3. Opponents were batting only .223 against Dixon prior to tonight, which was the lowest among Orioles starters, but of the 47 hits, 26 were for extra bases.
"I keep telling myself that it's got to change," Dixon said. "I'm not a home run pitcher, and I don't like the label. But I'm not fooling anyone, either."
Manager Earl Weaver attributed some of the problem to inexperience, but the first thing Weaver mentioned was his boring offense of the evening, which never had more than one hit in an inning and drew only one walk.
"No hits, no runs [almost], no interesting game," Weaver said. "I'll tell you, though, in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, we hit some rockets right at them. But when you're not running the bases, it's not interesting."
The battle between hitter and pitcher is one of guesses, hunches and intuition.
"The pitcher should never let the hitter know what he's thinking," Weaver said. "The longer you're around, the better you get at it. This is [Dixon's] second year. But the instinct is something you learn in the fifth or sixth year."
The loss leaves the Orioles 29-20 for the season, 1-2 in June. Since going on a 16-of-19 winning jag, they have lost three of the last four.
If there was bright spot, it may have been Tom O'Malley at third base, although Larry Sheets continued his hot hitting with two singles.
O'Malley started his first game since he was called up from Class AAA Rochester on Monday. In three trips to the plate, O'Malley had a line drive out and two singles. But his best play of the night came on defense.
It was the sixth inning, in which the Mariners had just increased their lead to 3-1 on the third of Owen's four singles. With Owen at first, Dave Henderson on third and two out, O'Malley dived to his left to grab Bob Kearney's hard ground ball and threw from his knees to second baseman Alan Wiggins for the force. The play saved a run, stopped a rally and brought an ovation for O'Malley.
"It makes it a lot more satisfying if your team comes out with a win," O'Malley said. "But I was satisfied with my play."
Moses' home run came with one out in the seventh. It was his first this year and only the second of his career. Weaver relieved Dixon after that, bringing in Tippy Martinez. Martinez walked Davis, so Rich Bordi came in. Bordi walked pinch-hitter Gorman Thomas, and one out later, gave up an RBI single to Danny Tartabull.
Tartabull had made it 1-0 in the second. He led off with a single and went to third on Henderson's single to right field. Owen -- who had only one other four-hit game in his career -- laced a single to center field.
Davis stepped up with one out in the third.
"Dixon throws a 3-0 curveball and let's him see it," Weaver explained. "After he throws a 3-0 curveball, the hitter's looking for a 3-1 curveball. That's outguessing. Sometimes it works."
This time it worked. Davis' shot to right-center field was his 10th homer of the year.
The Orioles got their run in the third inning. With two out, Wiggins drew the only walk off Moore, stole second and scored on John Shelby's single to center field.
"We had a good game pitched against us," Weaver said.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak for Moore, who got the win in Dick Williams' first game as manager, May 9 and now presented Williams win No. 1,423, which puts him alone in 15th place on the all-time managers list, ahead of Al Lopez.
"This is the best game he's thrown for me, and he won my first one here," Williams said of Moore. "They told me to wait and see, and now I see what they mean."
Orioles center fielder Fred Lynn aggravated his right wrist in Tuesday's game and sat out tonight. Lynn initially injured the wrist Saturday night in California . . . Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken has played 652 straight games and 5,900 consecutive innings. Thursday is the anniversary of his streak that began June 5, 1982, in Minnesota.