About this "Revenge of the Birds" stuff: It's fun to sing about, fun to read about, fun to talk about. Problem is, only a few Orioles think it's a big deal. After spoiling Toronto's party last night, they refused to make one of their own.
In fact, their 6-3 victory at Memorial Stadium seemed to have a greater impact on the crowd of 24,442, which serenaded the Blue Jays with repeated choruses of "Hey, Hey, Goodbye" as Boston clinched a tie for the AL East title by defeating Chicago 4-3.
"I thought I was back in Comiskey Park," reliever Kevin Hickey said. Or maybe Fenway Park. The fans, already on their feet, grew delirious when the Boston score flashed on Diamondvision, moments before Orioles reliever Gregg Olson struck out Mookie Wilson to end the game.
Centerfielder Mike Devereaux admitted glancing back at the scoreboard upon hearing the roar. "I said, 'That's what's going on,' " he recalled, smiling. "I'm sure there were a lot of Boston fans here. There always are."
Devereaux hit a two-run homer to tie the score in the sixth, igniting the surge that brought the Orioles their 10th victory in 13 games and sole possession of fourth place. It was a page right out of 1989, but as one player pointed out, "You can say we got 'em back. But did we?"
The answer, of course, is no: Toronto rallied twice to defeat the Orioles for the AL East title in the final series last season, not to mention three straight times for ninth-inning victories last month. Still, not everyone dismissed the meaning of last night's game.
"Of course, everyone has last year in the backs of their minds," first baseman Randy Milligan said. "If anybody said it's not, they're lying. There's no way anybody on this team can forget last year's series."
Added catcher Bob Melvin, "It was real sweet because of what happened last year, especially coming back the way they did. I don't know how many games we played them this year and last year where they came back and beat us. To come back and beat them is real nice."
Even the players who don't buy the revenge motive are relieved the Jays won't get the chance to stage a celebration at Memorial Stadium. It will be one of the great upsets in sports history if they a stage a celebration anywhere. Even Boston will have trouble blowing a two-game lead with two to play.
Na, na, na, na . . .
The Orioles' leading winner, Dave Johnson, can apply the knockout punch by beating Toronto tonight (7:35, HTS). Otherwise, the task could fall to rookie sensation Ben McDonald tomorrow. Of course, a Boston victory either night will settle this thing once and for all.
Na, na, na, na . . .
The Blue Jays took 2-0 and 3-1 leads against rookie Jose Mesa last night, but Devereaux hit his fourth home run in 10 games after a leadoff walk by lefthander David Wells in the sixth. Melvin then gave the Orioles the lead with his second two-out RBI of the game, a single that scored Milligan.
Hey, hey, hey, goodbye.
The Orioles added a run off reliever Frank Wills in the seventh after an intentional walk in front of Bill Ripken, the club's leading hitter at .289. Ripken bounced a single through the shortstop hole to score Craig Worthington, who had doubled to start the inning.
Sam Horn hit his second pinch-hit homer the next inning off reliever Duane Ward, the same guy he tagged for a pinch-hit grand slam 17 days before. Hickey retired pinch hitter Pat Borders with one on to end the eighth, and Olson earned his 37th save with a scoreless ninth.
The most excited player of all should have been Mesa, whom the Orioles acquired from Toronto in the Mike Flanagan trade Aug. 31, 1987. But beating the Blue Jays is no longer a novelty for the righthander, who also did it Sept. 13. He laughed and called them "my favorite team."
Mesa (3-2, 3.86) allowed four hits and six walks in 7 2/3 innings. He was pitching for the first time in a week, and the layoff disrupted his rhythm. "The way he pitched tonight, we could have gotten blown out," Orioles manager Frank Robinson said. "But he kept us in the ballgame."
Toronto scored twice in the first inning. After that Mesa allowed just two hits. "He always has good stuff," Toronto's Kelly Gruber said, "but we hit him hard tonight, and if he says anything different he's lying." Mesa doesn't need to lie: The Orioles are 5-0 in his last five starts. Not bad for a pitcher coming off reconstructive elbow surgery.
Gruber, obviously, spoke out of frustration after the Blow Jays lost for the seventh time in nine games. The crowd began taunting them after Horn's homer ("I really don't want Boston to ++ win," the former Red Sox said. "But I go out to do my best.") By the ninth the stadium was in an uproar.
The Orioles, however, were not. Even afterward, they were decidedly low-key. "That's the way they should be," Robinson said. "The only thing that gives you satisfaction is playing a very good ballgame against a ballclub that has something to play for. We outplayed them tonight. Simple as that. That's what we'll take out of it."
Bill Ripken said, "I don't really see it as vindictive or anything like that. It's our duty as professional baseball players to go out and play hard. That's the only thing we were doing. There wasn't anything hidden behind it."
Maybe not, but there aren't many games that make fans sing, and the "Revenge of the Birds" had them dancing in the aisles. "They were pumped," Milligan said, beaming. Somewhere deep inside, the Orioles were too.