It was not only a terribly exciting year for the Orioles this season but also that no-name team in Oakland as well. So I’m going back to 1978. The year Ron Guidry went 25-3 for the Yankees. That Orioles team still won 90 games but finished fourth.
It could have been worse obviously without the help of those A’s from Oakland.
Baltimore didn’t play the A’s until June 9th of that season. That’s the night Mike Flanagan threw four wild pitches, walked six and yet the Birds still won the game 6-3. Eddie Murray and Rick Dempsey homered in the victory.
Baltimore did not lose to Oakland that season. In a sense the Orioles had an 11-game winning streak against the A’s.
Speaking of streaks, this part of June was quite a happy time for Baltimore fans. This Orioles team won 13 games in a row from the last day of May through the middle of the month.
Game two of this Oakland series was close. Jim Palmer and Oakland’s Steve Renko put zeros on the scoreboard heading to the ninth inning. Lee May’s two-out double scored the only run of the game in the 1-0 win.
In game three it was Scott McGregor who kept the shutout streak alive. He tossed a six-hitter and the Big Bopper, May, cracked a homer in the 3-0 win.
The next time we saw the A’s it was five days later at Memorial Stadium. By this time, Oakland was no doubt getting weary of seeing Orioles pitching. It was Dennis Martinez’s turn to hurl on June 16. He went the distance and allowed nine hits and four walks. And no runs. Another shutout went up on the board. Murray homered twice in the 6-0 whitewash.
No this story isn’t all about shut outs. Flanagan again took the mound as the Orioles tried to make it five in a row against the A’s. Mitchell Page took Flanagan deep in the second inning but the Birds prevailed 5-4. May had two more hits and Ken Singleton homered.
The final game of this series was also a tough one. Palmer again pitched well but didn’t get much hitting support. May’s RBI hit in the fifth inning made it 2-0. Palmer’s error made it 2-1 but Tippy Martinez earned his first save to preserve the victory.
No one thought too much about beating the A’s six times in a row as the Birds didn’t see Oakland again until late August. Flanagan won his 16th game of the season on August 21. He pitched a three-hitter and survived a shaky ninth inning in the 3-2 win.
In a quest for the seventh win in a row, Baltimore scored two runs in the first and second innings. That lead didn’t hold up. This game went to extra innings. Dempsey’s RBI double in the 10th was key in the 6-4 win.
In this series finale on Aug. 23, the O’s didn’t fool around. Singleton, and of course, May, had three hits each in an 11-0 romp over the A’s. Palmer’s 15th win of the season was a three-hit shutout.
To complete this unlikely run, the Orioles had to take the final two games at home. Palmer and Dennis Martinez would pitch for Baltimore and Renko and a young Mike Norris would pitch for Oakland. By the top of the sixth in Baltimore on Aug. 28, Oakland had a 3-1 lead. A two-run single, yes again by Lee May, knotted the game up at 3-3.
By the eighth, Palmer had all the runs he needed. Doug DeCinces hit a two-run homer in the 7-3 win.
The 10-game winning streak was on the line on Aug. 29. A four-run third inning gave the O’s all the runs they needed. May’s contribution was a two-run single in that frame. Gosh, what did May have against that Oakland team anyway?
That was a 6-2 victory by the way.