Two of the American League East's best teams played one of the season's best, oddest and most dramatic games tonight.
They needed six home runs, 14 walks, 16 hits, eight pitchers and a 33-minute rain delay to decide it, and the final blow was Don Mattingly's seventh-inning double that gave the New York Yankees a 7-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Mattingly's hit scored Rickey Henderson with the winning run, but before that, a crowd of 32,135 at Memorial Stadium had seen a season's worth of ebb and flow in one cool, muggy evening.
They saw the Yankees get a 3-0 lead off Orioles starter Ken Dixon, who threw only 21 pitches but gave up two more homers, a two-run shot to Mattingly and a bases-empty one by Ken Griffey.
They also saw Orioles designated hitter Juan Beniquez homer in his first three at-bats, and Eddie Murray hit a dramatic, game-tying two-run shot in the sixth.
And they saw Alfonso Pulido of the Yankees make his second major league start and pitch five respectable innings (six hits, four runs), only to have reliever Brian Fisher almost ruin it by giving up Beniquez's third homer.
Fisher (2-2) allowed five base runners in two innings but still got the victory, thanks partly to Dave Righetti, who pitched the final two innings for his 14th save.
Before this 3-hour 45-minute game had ended, the Orioles had marched out five pitchers -- Dixon, Brad Havens, Tippy Martinez (0-2), Rich Bordi and Don Aase -- and none was particularly sharp. In all, Orioles pitchers walked nine, which led to five of the Yankees' seven runs. Which was the reason there was screaming in the Orioles manager's office.
"There's no way you overcome nine walks," Earl Weaver said. "I'd rather see 'em give up 13 runs than nine walks. When you walk one of those guys, the guy behind him is just as good a hitter. This is upsetting."
The Yankees got only six hits, but Henderson was on base four times with two hits and two walks, stole his 39th base and scored three runs.
The homers by Murray and Beniquez in the sixth had brought the Orioles into a 5-5 tie, but the Yankees won it in the seventh off Martinez.
Henderson led off with a double, and before the Orioles could think about strategy, Mattingly slapped a double down the right field line. New York got an additional run in the top of the ninth when Henderson walked, advanced to second on a ground ball, stole third and scored on Dave Winfield's bouncer into left.
The victory moved the Yankees into a virtual tie with the Orioles for second place in the American League East. Both the Orioles (34-23) and the Yankees (35-24) are 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.
Dixon's 21 pitches were, as usual, exciting ones. He walked Henderson with his first four, then Mattingly hit the fifth over the right field fence to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Dixon struck out Winfield and got Mike Easler on a grounder to second baseman Alan Wiggins. But Griffey followed with a towering homer to left, his seventh of the season, and when Mike Pagliarulo walked, Weaver brought in Havens.
Havens was effective for a while, getting through the second and third innings. Meanwhile, Beniquez's first homer closed it to 3-1 in the second.
In the fourth, Havens' lack of control dug the Orioles a 5-1 hole as he walked the bases loaded. Weaver brought in Martinez, who allowed Henderson a two-run single before getting Mattingly on a double-play grounder to end the inning.
Beniquez's second homer got the Orioles within 5-2 in the fourth. The next hitter was Mike Young, whose at-bat started just before the rain delay began and ended afterward.
The Orioles had another chance in the last of the fifth. With Wiggins on second, Lee Lacy hit a ball that Winfield snared by putting his glove above the right field wall to bring it back into the park.
In the sixth, after Cal Ripken led off with a double, Murray hit his eighth homer, 20 rows into the left field seats, to make it 5-4. Yankees Manager Lou Piniella went for Fisher, and Beniquez promptly tied the game at 5-5 with his third homer of the evening.
"I'm a line-drive hitter, a singles hitter," Beniquez said, "but tonight was one of those nights. I was surprised. When you hit like that, you expect a team to win."
That was it. The Orioles left the bases loaded in the sixth, and Ripken hit a leadoff double in the ninth before Righetti retired Murray, Beniquez and Young in order.
Center fielder Fred Lynn's sprained right ankle is worse than originally thought, and doctors have told him to rest it for the next three or four days. Lynn has started only three of the Orioles' last 11 games and has missed three in a row. . . . Pitcher Dennis Martinez came by the stadium today to clean out his locker. He probably will be released Friday, although General Manager Hank Peters still was trying to trade him tonight.
*Blue Jays 9, Tigers 0: Kelly Gruber hit a three-run, inside-the-park homer that was lost in a dense fog and Cliff Johnson and Jesse Barfield also homered as Toronto beat visiting Detroit in a game called in the bottom of the seventh inning because of rain and fog.
*Angels 3, Royals 2: Brian Downing tripled home two runs in the third inning and Mike Witt (7-4) held Kansas City to six hits as California won at home.
*White Sox 8, Mariners 4: Carlton Fisk drove home two runs with a double and Harold Baines hit the next pitch for a two-run home run in a five-run ninth inning that propelled Chicago to victory in Seattle