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Retro Orioles recap: Baltimore explodes for five runs in the fifth to take Game 2 from the Reds

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After falling to an early 4-0 hole thanks to a lackluster Mike Cuellar start, the Birds rallied and held on to take a 2-0 lead over Cincinnati in the World Series.

Orioles v Reds
Brooks Robinson doing what Brooks Robinson does during Game 2 of the 1970 World Series in Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati.
Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images

This game took place on Sunday, October 11, 1970. It is being recapped today as part of Camden Chat’s retro recap series while MLB is on hold due to coronavirus.

After taking a tight Game 1 from the NL champion Cincinnati Reds, the Orioles looked to play the spoiler on the road and take a two-game lead in the best-of-seven series.

(Great highlights from the 1970 Series are available here, by the way, Game 2 at 9:08-15:02, chunks of which I’ll link to periodically in this post. And, as long as you can handle even grainier B&W footage, plus periodic interruptions from the Canadian broadcast team, complete footage of the game can be found here.)

Game 2 saw a lopsided starters’ matchup between 1969 AL Cy Young Award winner Mike Cuellar, who actually put up improved numbers in 1970 in pretty much every category but ERA—wins and losses (24-8), complete games (21), innings pitched (297.2), and strikeouts (190)—and Cincinnati righty Jim McGlothlin, 14-10 with a 3.59 ERA in 210 innings that year, the kind of player that makes trivia diehards scratch their heads and go: “Hey, remember that guy?”

But as they say, baseball games aren’t played on paper, and for four innings of this one, you’d have been forgiven for thinking the starters’ identities were switched. The Reds weren’t yet quite the Big Red Machine of baseball lore (they were still missing core parts in Joe Morgan, Dave Concepción, Ken Griffey Sr., and César Gerónimo), but their 1970 lineup was stacked. There was Pete Rose in the leadoff spot, Tony Perez hitting third, Johnny Bench hitting cleanup, and Lee May in the fifth spot.

For the first three innings, Baltimore had nothing going against Jim McGlothlin but a pair of singles, while the lefty Cuellar seemed to have left his best stuff back in Baltimore. The very first batter of the game, Pete Rose led off with a grounder that shortstop Mark Belanger uncharacteristically let bounce past his glove, allowing Rose to reach. Two outs and a single later, Cuellar tossed a high sinker to Lee May (“the quickest bat this side of the Mississippi,” according to Jim Palmer), who walloped the pitch into left-center, the ball bouncing off outfielders Paul Blair and Don Buford’s gloves while two Reds rounded the bases. Next up, Hal McRae hit a suicide squeeze back to the pitcher, but Cuellar’s shovel toss home to catcher Elrod Hendricks was ugly and up the line. (Fundamentals!) Like that, the O’s were in a 3-0 hole.

Things got worse before they got better. The Reds were notorious lefty-killers, and in the third lefty centerfielder Bobby Tolan launched a no-doubt bomb off the southpaw Cuellar to make it 4-0. After Cuellar walked Johnny Bench, Earl Weaver yanked him. First up for Cuellar’s replacement, the righty Tom Phoebus, was the fearsome Lee May. May stung a ball to third, but Brooks Robinson scooped it up, spun around, and fired to second to start a much-needed 5-4-3 double play.

Finally, in the fourth, the momentum started to shift. A noisy Boog Powell home run to deep center, his second in two games, put the Orioles on the board.

In the fifth, it was death by a thousand cuts for the Reds as three different pitchers combined to give up five runs on five Baltimore singles and a double. Chico Salmon, pinch hitting for the pitcher, kicked things off with a single. Lefty Don Buford stroked an easy single to right. Paul Blair roped a grounder past a diving Tony Perez at third, allowing Salmon to round the bases. An authoritative Boog Powell oppo-field single to left was enough to score a chugging Don Buford from second ahead of the throw. Brooks Robinson didn’t waste his RBI chance, either, driving a grounder through the hole between first and second that scored Paul Blair. The game was tied up at four runs apiece.

But the Birds weren’t done. Still in the fifth, with two outs and Powell and Robinson on first and second, Elrod Hendricks came up to face Milt Wilcox. The righty’s offering came in high and outside, but the lefty Hendricks swatted at it, and managed to catch the ball with the end of his bat. It ricocheted the opposite way, down the third baseline and well out of the reach of Tony Perez. Hendricks got a double out of it, and the Orioles got a game-deciding two more runs, putting them up 6-4.

In the sixth, Johnny Bench homered off of Baltimore’s Moe Drabowsky to bring the Big Red Machine within one run. But that was as close as they’d get. In the seventh, with two on for Cincinnati, Earl Weaver played the percentages and put in lefty Marcelino Lopez, who won the lefty-on-lefty matchup with Tolan. (Lopez faced exactly one batter that game . . . an early glimpse of the LOOGY?)

After that, the Orioles’ lanky 40-year-old closer Dick Hall retired the last seven Reds hitters he faced to notch the save. Only the last one, Jim Stewart, gave Hall any trouble: Stewart hit a deep drive to center, but Paul Blair tracked it down and hauled it in on the warning track to close out the game and send the series back to Baltimore for Game 3.

Box score from Baseball Reference.

Poll

Who was the Most Birdland Player for October 11, 1970 (World Series Game 2)?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Boog Powell (2-for-3, 2R, 2 BB, 2 RBI, homered in 2nd consecutive game)
    (23 votes)
  • 8%
    Paul Blair (2-for-5, 1R, 1 RBI, Web Gem in CF for last out of the game)
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Elrod Hendricks (2-run double, 1 BB)
    (0 votes)
  • 8%
    Brooks Robinson (1-for-4, run, RBI, started rally-killing double play)
    (3 votes)
  • 19%
    Dick Hall (2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, save)
    (7 votes)
36 votes total Vote Now