The Baltimore Orioles launched a 12-game stretch last night against the American League's two division leaders, but playing spoiler isn't uppermost in manager John Oates' mind.
"I don't get any satisfaction out of beating leaders," said Oates. "I don't care if we beat the first-place team or the last-place team. What's important is for us to get victories.
"There is no more enjoyment in winning against one team or another."
The Orioles will play the West Division-leading Minnesota Twins and East Division-leading Toronto Blue Jays at home, then visit those two clubs in the same sequence.
"We're going to have to play good baseball to win," said Oates. "These next two weeks are going to be awfully tough. From where we are, more wins are all that counts."
The Orioles are 2-5 against the Twins but lost three consecutive one-run games at Minnesota in early June. They are 4-3 vs. Toronto.
Tippy Martinez and Lenn Sakata, the two major protagonists, returned to Memorial Stadium to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the fabled three-pickoff game during the 1983 pennant race.
In one of the wildest games in Orioles history, Martinez picked off three Blue Jays in the top of the 10th inning with Sakata, normally an infielder, catching. Then, Sakata hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to win the game, 7-4.
Sakata was making his major-league debut behind the plate.
"They wanted to run on Lenny so bad," said Martinez. "Really, all I wanted to do was keep them close. It just worked out."
That was a turning point in a season in which the Orioles went on to win the World Series.
"I'd like to say I had a great pickoff move, but I didn't," said lTC Martinez, who now coaches at Towson State. "But after that I let people think I did."
Sakata coaches with the Edmonton Trappers in the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. Both players hope to land jobs with one of the expansion franchises.
Call-ups on hold
Oates said additional promotions of players from the minor leagues are not imminent.
"We have none planned, so there is no use mentioning names," he said. "The staff hasn't met about this."
The latest promotion was pitching prospect Arthur Rhodes, who made his debut at Texas on Wednesday in a 4-3 Orioles victory. He wild-pitched two runs home and had trouble finding the plate.
"He seemed to be a little nervous, pitching in front of his family and everything," said Oates. "That added some more anxiety, and he was certainly wild."
With 19 games in a row, Joe Orsulak is 3 games shy of tying the longest batting streak in Orioles history. The record is shared by Eddie Murray (1984) and Doug DeCinces (1978-79). . . . Oates said Bill Ripken is ensconced at second base, and he will play Juan Bell "whenever I can get a chance.". . . . The Orioles' 5-man rotation averages 24 years, 2 months old and is the youngest in the majors. Atlanta and Cleveland are tied for second at 26 years, 4 months. . . . CBS-TV decided not to televise today's game, which will be played at 7:35 p.m., not 1:35 p.m. as originally scheduled. . . . A portion of the field behind and to the right and left of home plate was re-sodded when the Orioles were away. A fungus had killed the grass. . . . Thursday night, Paul Kilgus earned his first victory since being sent to Class AAA Rochester. He went 7 2/3 innings in a 7-4 victory over Pawtucket. )) Jose Bautista gained his first save in the game. . . . Cal Ripken celebrates his 31st birthday today.