The Baltimore Orioles battled the winningest pitcher in the American League to an eight-inning draw last night, but they could not do anything about the hottest hitter in baseball.
California Angels left-hander Chuck Finley earned his seventh victory last night because Wally Joyner can do nothing wrong this year.
Joyner went head-to-head with Orioles left-hander Mike Flanagan a classic ninth-inning at-bat that culminated with a two-run single and a 4-2 victory for the Angels before 31,728 at Memorial Stadium.
The Angels first baseman battled to a full count and fouled off five two- strike pitches before stroking a two-out single into right field to score Junior Felix and Dick Schofield and saddle reliever Mark Williamson with his first loss since July 28.
It was Joyner's third hit of the game and it improved his major-league-leading batting average to .391. He also homered earlier in the game and drove home all four Angels runs.
Finley worked eight innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on nine hits before turning the game over to Bryan Harvey, who pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his ninth save in as many opportunities.
Orioles starter Jeff Robinson turned in another strong performance, but he again left room to wonder exactly how he does it. He pitched eight innings and had runners on base in seven of them, but surrendered only two runs before turning the game over to the bullpen.
He has to be one of the most resourceful pitchers in the game, considering the 65 baserunners he has allowed in 38 1/3 innings of work and his respectable 3.76 ERA, but that didn't do his team much good last night.
Robinson appeared to have good command of his pitches in the early innings, except when it came to Joyner. But then, no one has had much success getting him out this year.
Joyner came into the game on top of the baseball world with a major-league-leading .379 batting average and immediately set to work improving on it. He singled in his first at-bat and hit a two-run homer to bring the Angels from behind in the third.
It was Joyner's sixth home run and his 15th multiple-hit game of the year.
Angels starter Chuck Finley doesn't usually need much more than that. He has been one of the top left-handed starters in baseball the past couple of seasons and is showing no sign of letting up, but the Orioles found him vulnerable on a couple of occasions.
Designated hitter Chris Hoiles gave them the lead with his second home run of the season, a (you guessed it) bases-empty shot in the second inning. It was the 17th consecutive bases-empty home run for the Orioles, who now have hit 26 of their last 27 homers with no runners on base.
Finley gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the third inning after Gary Gaetti bobbled a leadoff grounder by Tim Hulett and then threw it past first base for a two-base error. Bill Ripken followed with an infield hit to put runners at first and third with no outs, but the Orioles nearly came away empty- handed.
Hulett was thrown out at the plate on a bouncer to third and Dwight Evans struck out, leaving it up to Cal Ripken to make the most of a deteriorating situation. He did, of course, driving home the tying run with a single up the middle. He's been doing that all year.
Ripken's hit did not come without a price, however. Mike Devereaux, who had reached first on the fielder's choice at the plate, suffered a slight groin strain rounding second and had to be removed from the game.
Robinson took advantage of some magnificent defensive play to survive a rocky fourth inning in which the Angels had runners at first and third with no one out. The Orioles turned a 5-4-2 double play on a bouncer by Lance Parrish, Bill Ripken taking the relay at second base and throwing out Dave Parker at the plate.
Parker had waited to make sure third baseman Tim Hulett threw to second on the plate, so he broke late from third and was out easily. The Angels threatened again in the inning after Junior Felix singled, but Jeff McKnight made a spectacular diving catch to rob Luis Sojo of a potential two-run double.
Robinson always seems to be pitching with men on base. He had runners on in each of his first seven innings last night and has worked with runners on in 27 of his last 31 innings (25 of 28 after the fifth) he's pitched -- dating to April 27. But he has been scored upon in only five of those 31 innings.