When the New York Yankees drew a blueprint for 1986, they believed they would win games this way.
They would beat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-2, because Rickey Henderson hit a game-winning homer off the left-field foul pole, which he did this afternoon before 43,487 at Memorial Stadium.
They would win because a starting pitcher would scatter seven singles over seven innings, which Dennis Rasmussen (6-2) did.
And they would win because relievers Brian Fisher and Dave Righetti would pitch two hitless innings, which they did.
So after two months of searching, the Yankees have come to, of all places, warm, muggy Baltimore to find their 1986 game. Their victory today was their third straight over the Orioles, pushed them within 3 1/2 games of first-place Boston and made the start of Monday's Red Sox-Yankees series a little more interesting.
"If we continue to get this type of pitching, we're going to be an awfully tough team to beat," Yankees Manager Lou Piniella said.
If the Yankees get this type of pitching, they'll be unbeatable, which they already are in Baltimore, where they have won 10 of their last 11 games and 16 of their last 20. They again hit the Orioles in about a half-dozen ways, including Dave Winfield's two-run home run off Scott McGregor (5-6) in the first inning, Henderson's shot in the seventh and Mike Easler's homer in the eighth.
In all, they had 10 hits, but Henderson did the most damage. He was on base three times with two hits and a walk, and in the first three games of this series, had five hits, five walks, four stolen bases and six runs in 14 plate appearances.
A night earlier, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, perhaps in a fit of frustration, complained bitterly about the umpires being intimidated by Henderson's act at home plate, which often involves complaining, ducking under pitches and more complaining.
"I think he's trying to upset me or the umpire because he knows I play so well against them," Henderson said. "I dedicated the game today to Earl."
The Yankees also had seven outstanding innings from Rasmussen, who allowed the Orioles two runs in the first, then shut them down on four singles in the next six.
In the Orioles' clubhouse, there was mostly silence again, except for Weaver, who seemed to use cursing for therapy.
"It was a good-pitched game, but not damned good enough," Weaver said. "What was the score of the damn game?"
McGregor scattered six hits over 6 2/3 innings and lost because Henderson's seventh-inning shot hit the foul pole.
"No, no, no," Weaver said. "You've got to keep them to two runs. I want to win a damned game 3-2 once in a while."
That brought him to his offense, which is 11th in scoring in the American League (4.59 runs per game). Since they finished a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium with 18 runs last Sunday, the Orioles have scored only 17.
The stretch has occurred while center fielder Fred Lynn, the leading hitter in a 22-8 stretch earlier, has been unable to play because of laryngitis and a sore ankle.
"We're way overanxious," Weaver said. " . . . This is a time when you should sit back and battle to get on first base any way you can. Everything we did in New York a week ago is wasted. Six days later, and we're right back where we started."
Since they won three straight in New York, the 34-25 Orioles have lost five of six, all without Lynn, and dropped two full games behind the second-place Yankees, although they remain 5 1/2 behind Boston.
As usual, the Yankees started quickly today, getting a 2-0 lead in the first. Henderson singled to left to open the game, then stole second and third. Willie Randolph walked, and McGregor got Don Mattingly to hit into a double play. But Winfield followed with his 12th homer.
The Orioles came back to tie it 2-2 in the first as Lee Lacy got a one-out walk from Rasmussen, Juan Beniquez singled to left and Eddie Murray singled to center for a run.
Cal Ripken singled to left to load the bases, and Mike Young's sacrifice fly to deep center scored Beniquez to tie it.
That was the Orioles' offense. They left seven runners on base but had only two as far as second after the first. Friday, the Orioles wasted Storm Davis' strong 7 1/3 innings to lose, 3-1. On Sunday afternoon, they will send out Mike Boddicker (8-1) to try to avert a sweep.
"We've lost two good-pitched games in a row," Murray said. "That's bad. You can't do that. I don't know what it was today, but after the first inning, I had a hard time hitting. Other guys on our bench did, too. I don't know if it was a haze in the sky or what."
McGregor kept the Yankees from scoring more runs until the seventh, when he threw a strike to Henderson, then sent a curveball over the middle of the plate.
Henderson got it, sort of, lofting a fly ball down the left field line. It curved and curved and curved and hit the foul pole for the homer.
"He hung a breaking ball up there," Henderson said. "I got the good part of the bat on it, but I thought it was going foul."
Henderson's homer made it 3-2, and an inning later, Easler hit one off reliever Nate Snell to make it 4-2.
Piniella went for reliever Fisher to pitch the eighth, then brought in Righetti for a third straight game and a third straight save. That gives him 16 for the season, one behind the Orioles' Don Aase, the American League leader. This from the guy who blew four saves in seven chances earlier this month.
"When you feel like this, you want to go out and pitch," Righetti said. ". . . When I went out, I didn't know how many I had in me, but I can go again tomorrow if he'll let me. We're doing this for Lou. He's working so hard, and he's wound so tightly. You want to go pitch. Plus, it's easy when you hit a foul pole or two."