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Oriole fans are very good at sensing one of their team's patented rallies, and when John gave up a double to Bumbry to lead off the seventh, all 50,434 were in full voice. They had already been whipped into a frenzy by one of Wild Bill Hagy's spelling bees and by the Oriole mascot astride a Big Apple, waving the Orioles' 1979 championship banner. Baltimore did score two runs, including one off Reliever Doug (The Fidrych) Bird, but when Gossage came in, it was all over. He struck out five of the last seven batters and the Yankees won 4-3. "Awesome," said Weaver. "A Japanese locomotive on a straightaway," said John Lowenstein, whatever that means. "You feel guilty telling the batters to go out there and get a hit," said Pitching Coach Ray Miller. "They look at you funny, as if to say, 'You try it.' " "Maybe we'll have a meeting every night," said Howser.
The Yankees didn't need one the next night. They had Gaylord Perry. On a beautiful, springlike evening, he held the Orioles to one run in seven innings before giving way to Gossage. Not bad for a guy who looks like a member of the grounds crew. He had some help, of course. Ruppert Jones, who had been playing badly in recent games, singled in the first inning, stole second, scored on Bobby Murcer's single and made a sensational catch in the second inning of an Eddie Murray drive. The ball was a home run for sure, but Jones leaped high, extended his arm over the seven-foot wall, reached back and snared it. Oscar Gamble hit a two-run homer off Dennis Martinez in the fifth, and Eric Soderholm homered in the eighth for the Yankees' fourth and final run.
Dr. Longball was less generous to the Orioles, whose only run came on a Terry Crowley homer in the fifth. The Baltimore hitters were clearly bothered by Perry's do-I-or-don't-I routine. He paws the dirt about six times before each pitch, plays with the rosin bag, wipes his forehead four times and touches his cap twice. "And then he throws the ball exactly where he wants to," said Weaver. Singleton said Perry threw him only one spitter, on a 3-2 pitch, and it struck him out. "I took it as a compliment," said Singleton.
The Orioles' last chance at Perry came in the seventh, when they had runners on first and third with one out. After Doug DeCinces popped up, Pat Kelly was sent in to bat for Kiko Garcia. Kelly was called out on a checked swing. Third Base Umpire Dale Ford said he went around, Weaver said he didn't. Weaver was yelling so hard at the umpires he didn't hear about his ejection. He went back down the runway for a smoke, and when he came out, Soderholm had just homered. That's when he threw the sunflower seeds.
Following the 4-1 loss, Singleton remained philosophical. "The pendulum swings," he said. And indeed it swung back the Orioles' way on Sunday, thanks to Scott McGregor, who allowed only six hits in a taut 1-0 victory over Tiant. McGregor struck out Jackson four times, walked only one batter and threw 102 pitches. "That's the best game I've ever seen Scotty throw," said his catcher, Dempsey. The only run Baltimore needed came home in the sixth after doubles by Dauer and Designated Hitter Crowley. Dauer's hit would have been a home run except that a fan in the leftfield bleachers touched the ball and it was judged a ground-rule double. Weaver argued the point to no avail, but his performance was much more understated than that of the night before. Then Crowley, one of Weaver's regular irregulars, made the point moot by smashing the ball inside the rightfield foul line behind first base.
Baltimore might have scored two innings earlier except that Jackson crashed into the fence to make a nice lunging catch of a DeCinces line drive. For a few minutes the Yankees' pennant hopes lay motionless on the ground, but Jackson got up and stayed in the game with nothing more serious than a bruised forearm. "I thought he killed himself," said McGregor, "but Earl said, 'Oh, don't worry, he's just playing the dramatic.' "
In the Orioles' clubhouse after the game there was no champagne, but the mood was jubilant nonetheless. "This was as big a game as we've had all year," said Crowley. "Down deep, we knew how important it was. We couldn't let them take three out of four on our turf."
This series demonstrated that the Yankees and Orioles are as closely matched as any two teams can be. "I feel deep down [the Orioles have a lot of deep thinkers] that we have the best club in baseball," said Dempsey. "I honestly feel we're the better ball club," said Watson. "This is fun," said Howser. "It's demanding and draining and nerve-racking, but it's what baseball is all about. I'm only sorry we're not playing the Orioles in September." August has been plenty good enough.