The Baltimore Orioles started strong yesterday. They finished stronger.
And now they’re only one game away from a chance to right the wrongs of a season ago.
Frank Robinson and Davey Johnson homered, Boog Powell and Mark Belanger had three RBI apiece, and Baltimore beat the Minnesota Twins 11-3 in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
The hard-hitting O’s provided Dave McNally with plenty of offense, and the left-hander pitched all nine innings to pick up the win on the mound.
The Orioles didn’t wait long to strike and get the upper hand on the road. Belanger and Paul Blair took advantage of Twins starter Tom Hall’s wildness with leadoff walks, and after a Robinson fly ball moved Belanger to third, Powell smacked a double to right field that allowed Belanger to come home and make it 1-0.
The early offense validated a switch by manager Earl Weaver, who moved Belanger up to the leadoff spot, despite the shortstop posting only a paltry .218 batting average this season.
The move continued to pay off in the third, when Belanger singled to lead off the inning. Hall got Blair to line out to third, but Robinson turned on an offering from the Twins starter and hammered it for a two-run home run, putting the Orioles ahead 3-0.
Baltimore added to the advantage in the fourth, with McNally this time helping out at the plate. Andy Etchebarren had an infield single to shortstop and advanced on a throwing error by Leo Cardenas, and McNally brought his battery mate in with a single to left, extending the lead to 4-0.
McNally faltered momentarily in the bottom half, and the Twins, desperate to even the series on their home field, took advantage. Cardenas started the inning with a walk, and McNally made mistakes first to Harmon Killebrew and then to Tony Oliva, and Minnesota’s two sluggers responded with back-to-back home runs to cut Baltimore’s lead to one and suddenly put the game up for grabs.
Minnesota came oh-so-close to tying the game in the fifth, as relief pitcher Stan Williams walked with one out and Cesar Tovar singled, and Cardenas rapped a single to left that could have evened the score. The throw from Merv Rettenmund, however, was right on the money, and Williams was out at the plate trying to score. There were still two on for the dangerous Killebrew, but McNally got one of the game’s prominent power hitters to pop to second to end the threat.
McNally steadied from there, allowing one hit over the next three innings, and he provided the spark in the ninth as the Oriole bats gave him some breathing room. McNally smacked a double off of Twins reliever Ron Perranoski, and Belanger collected his third hit of the game to put runners at the corners.
(McNally’s ability at the plate should be taken into consideration if the Orioles advance to the World Series. He could be a tough out, and the Cincinnati Reds or Pittsburgh Pirates shouldn’t take him lightly.)
Perranoski bounced back to strike out Paul Blair, but he couldn’t hold back the heart of the Orioles lineup. Robinson walked, loading the bases, and Powell, a good bet to win the MVP award this year, cracked another double, this time to left field, scoring McNally and Belanger for a 6-3 lead.
Rettenmund followed with a single to right, bringing in Robinson and chasing Perranoski. Luis Tiant came in but didn’t find much success, as Brooks Robinson reached on an error that scored Powell for an 8-3 lead. Johnson broke it open even further from there, hammering a Tiant offering for a three-run home run that put the Orioles ahead 11-3.
McNally didn’t allow for much drama in the ninth, getting a double play during a three-up, three-down inning that ended the game. McNally finished with six hits allowed in the nine innings, along with five walks and five strikeouts. He wasn’t dominant, but his ability to finish the game means the O’s will have a rested bullpen as they go for the sweep.
Every Oriole but Blair finished with a hit. Weaver may be inclined to keep Belanger in the leadoff spot, as the light-hitting shortstop is hitting .346 when batting at the top of the order.
With the win, the Orioles are a victory from getting back to the World Series and having an opportunity to atone for the loss to the underdog New York Mets in last year’s fall classic. Baltimore can wrap up the series today back home at Memorial Stadium, where it’ll send Jim Palmer to the mound against the Twins’ Jim Kaat.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for October 4, 1970 (ALCS Game 2)?
This poll is closed
Mark Belanger (3-for-4, 3 R)
Boog Powell (3-for-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI)
Davey Johnson (1-for-5, 3-R HR)
Frank Robinson (1-for-3, 2-R HR)
Dave McNally (9 IP, 3 R; 2-for-5, 2B, RBI)