Mike Boddicker's brilliance always has come from his ability to compensate, to win when the Baltimore Orioles don't score many runs, when his curveball is spinning into oblivion or when circumstances say he shouldn't.
Today, compensation was simple. He had no curveball and not much of a slider, so he fed the Milwaukee Brewers what he had, a variety of changeups and fastballs, scattered six hits over seven innings and won again, this time, 4-3, before 14,369 on a muggy afternoon at County Stadium.
Not that the Orioles expect any less. Since he came into the American League, he has won 60 percent of his games, and today's victory ran his 1986 record to 8-1, which puts him well ahead of his 20-victory pace of 1984.
He also pitched at least seven innings for the ninth time in 10 starts, allowed three or fewer runs for the seventh time, and, most importantly, pitched long enough to give reliever Don Aase a chance to perform.
Trying to protect the 4-3 lead in the eighth inning, Manager Earl Weaver waved Aase into a game for the 26th time this season. Aase responded by finishing his 24th game and getting his league-leading 17th save -- six of them for Boddicker.
"I'm not trying to make our starters seven-inning pitchers," Weaver said. "But as long as Aase is pitching like this, you have to get him in the game. I still want them to go nine, but I've never had a pitcher get 17 saves this early in a season. When he's rested, the temptation is always going to be to use him."
Aase rescued the Orioles, who had lost the first two games here and had seen a 4-1 lead shrink in the sixth and seventh inning. Leaving here with their first three-game losing streak of the season would not have been the way to celebrate a sweep at Yankee Stadium.
"This was tough," Boddicker said. "We knew Milwaukee had been playing well, but we were so pumped up and emotional in New York that it was natural to be a little bit flat. This one was tough. The first pitch of the game, I threw a curveball, and my middle finger went numb. I thought, 'Okay, here we go.' "
That's the way it appeared for an inning as the Brewers got a 1-0 lead, thanks more to a bad outfielding than any pitch Boddicker threw.
Mike Felder started the game by walking and stealing second. Robin Yount flied out to right, and Cecil Cooper lined a ball into deep left field. Left fielder Mike Young appeared to have a play on the ball, but it fell in for a double and a 1-0 Milwaukee lead.
"I saw the ball, but I thought center fielder John Shelby was going to catch it," Young said. "I'm not trying to make excuses, but the wind was tricky out there. The thing started off like it was going into center and just kept blowing toward me. I was pulled over toward the line, and if I'm just playing a normal left field, I have a play on that one."
Boddicker was outstanding after that, retiring nine in a row and taking a two-hitter into the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Orioles got him a 3-1 lead in the third on an error and four straight singles. Rick Dempsey led it off by reaching first base on third baseman Dale Sveum's error. Shelby bunted a ball down the first base line that Cooper couldn't field.
"I went to pick it up," Cooper said, "and I looked up to see where Shelby was. I should have had it."
Shelby was given a single, and Juan Bonilla's single to right tied the game, 1-1. After Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray each singled, the Orioles led, 3-1.
They made it 4-1 in the sixth, when Murray led off with a single and, after Larry Sheets flied out and Jim Dwyer struck out, Young singled and Tom O'Malley lined a double into right-center.
O'Malley was brought up a week ago to give the Orioles help at third base and, although he has made two errors, has seven hits in 19 at-bats (.368).
The Brewers closed it to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth when Cooper lined a two-out double to left and Ben Oglivie singled to center.
They got another in the seventh when Ernest Riles' double fell in front of Shelby, and Jim Gantner grounded a single into center field.
Weaver went for Aase to start the eighth. He gave up a leadoff single to Yount. After Cooper sacrificed, Yount took third on Oglivie's groundout. But Aase left him there, getting Billy Jo Robidoux to line to Ripken at shortstop.
He struck out Riles and Sveum to open the ninth before allowing Gantner a single. Bill Schroeder fouled out to Dempsey to end the game.
"Aase is going so good, you don't even have to think twice about him coming in," Boddicker said. "If he even gives up a hit, you're in shock. Right now, we've got him on a pedestal."
Orioles General Manager Hank Peters was unable to work out a trade for Dennis Martinez today, which moved the pitcher a day closer to getting his release . . . Center fielder Fred Lynn's sore right ankle kept him on the bench a third straight game . . .
With Aase getting 17 saves in the Orioles' first 56 games, he is in position to break the team record of 26 by Tim Stoddard in 1980. At his current pace, he would have 49 saves. The major league record of 45 is held by Dan Quisenberry and Bruce Sutter . . . Aase has allowed one run in his last 20 2/3 innings . . .
The Orioles are waiting for Murray to start another home run streak. He has gone 21 games without one, but still leads the Orioles with 42 RBI and has four hits and three RBI in his last six at-bats.