TORONTO, SEPT. 14 -- Since they assembled a pitching staff that included Ken Dixon and Mike Griffin, Tony Arnold and Mike Kinnunen, the Baltimore Orioles had feared things might blow up in their faces some night.
Tonight was the night.
In a performance that rattled the timbers of a proud franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays hit a major league-record 10 home runs and defeated the Orioles, 18-3, before 27,446 laughing, roaring, disbelieving fans at Exhibition Stadium.
Not only that, but in the eighth inning, Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. pulled his son, shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., from the game, ending his streak of 8,243 consecutive innings played. That covered 908 straight games and was believed to be the longest such streak in major league history. Ron Washington replaced him, the first time since June 4, 1982, Ripken had been out of a game.
"I've always thought people made too much of it," said Ripken Jr., who grounded into a fielder's choice in the top of the eighth then was replaced in the bottom of the inning. "And I don't think it has had anything to do with whether I'm hitting or not. I think it really hasn't hit me yet that it's over. I might be sitting in my hotel room tonight when I finally realize it."
But on the most bizarre night of a bizarre season, the end of Ripken's incredible streak was only a bit part of a bigger story.
The previous record for home runs in a game was eight, which had been accomplished seven times, the last time by the Montreal Expos against the Atlanta Braves July 30, 1978. Tonight, the Blue Jays got them from almost everyone. Catcher Ernie Whitt hit three. Rance Mulliniks and George Bell hit two apiece. Lloyd Moseby and rookies Rob Ducey and Fred McGriff hit one apiece.
They tied the record in the seventh when Ducey hit his first major league homer, a three-run shot off Kinnunen. Whitt broke the record with one off Arnold in the seventh. McGriff hit the final one, also off Arnold, in the eighth. The Blue Jays had 21 hits in all.
"It got to be ludicrous after awhile," Orioles catcher Terry Kennedy said. "Every bad pitch was hit out of the park. I was just amazed after awhile. It's humiliating, but this is a humbling game."
He smiled and asked, "What's the record for homers by two teams?"
That record is 11, and thanks to Mike Hart's homer in the third inning, the Orioles and Blue Jays tied that one. Eleven homers have been hit in six other games, the last one in 1979 when the Chicago Cubs hit six and the Philadelphia Phillies hit five.
"It was kind of top heavy, wasn't it?" Kennedy asked.
As for the six Oriole pitchers, they accepted their brush with history with humor and grace. Dixon (7-10) pitched 1 2/3 innings and allowed three homers, but he was followed by Eric Bell (two homers), Griffin (one), Kinnunen (two), Arnold (two) and Jack O'Connor (none).
"It was like they had a vendetta against us," Dixon said. "This was like the No. 1 college football team running up the score. I don't know why they'd want to do that. No matter what they did tonight, they ain't gonna be ranked No. 1 next week."
"The strange thing," he added, "is that I thought I had both a good fastball and a good curveball. But everytime I got a pitch up, boom!"
The Orioles had never allowed more than six homers in a game, but this season they've allowed 204, the third-highest total in major league history. They appear certain to break the all-time record of 220, by the 1964 Kansas City Athletics.
Almost lost in the mass of numbers was that this was the Orioles' seventh consecutive loss. They are now 13-46 against the AL East, including a 5-24 road record.
"That was an embarrassing game," Ripken Sr. said. "I'm not the only one who's embarrassed. Every guy out there should be."
Unlike in his last start, Dixon did get out of the first inning, but not by much. On three consecutive pitches, Whitt hit his 15th homer of the season, Jesse Barfield doubled off the center field wall and Mulliniks homered.
Dixon struck out McGriff and got Willie Upshaw to ground out in the second, but he walked rookie second baseman Nelson Liriano and threw his last pitch to Moseby, who turned it into a towering homer to right for a 5-0 lead.
Dixon has faced 14 hitters in his last two starts and allowed four homers, two doubles, a single and two walks. He has also allowed eight runs.
Eric Bell allowed homers to George Bell and Mulliniks in the third. Griffin allowed a run on a single by Tony Fernandez in the fourth.
The Blue Jays were just getting warmed up. Whitt hit his second homer of the game in the fifth. Bell hit his second of the game and major league-leading 45th of the season in the sixth. Then, in the seventh, with Kinnunen pitching, Ducey popped a three-run homer over the left field wall for the first of his career and Toronto's eighth of the game. After Manny Lee singled, Ripken Sr. went for Arnold.
Three batters later, as the crowd chanted his name, Whitt stepped up and powered the record-breaking homer over the right-field fence. He has five hits in his last 12 at-bats, and all the hits are homers.