The Baltimore Orioles regained their footing and forced the World Series to its’ limit with a 7-2 defeat of the New York Mets at Memorial Stadium. Jim Palmer pitched his second complete game victory of the Series, keeping the Orioles in the game despite early troubles. Palmer matched his Game 3 performance with seven strikeouts and two walks. Tomorrow’s game will feature a third rematch between Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar and New York’s Tom Seaver. New York will indeed see if a third time is a charm as Seaver has been victorious in the first two matchups.
It initially appeared the mighty 110-win Orioles felt the weight of the moment with their collective backs to the wall. Baltimore committed a pair of errors to open the game. Leadoff batter Tommie Agee’s fly ball to left ricocheted off Don Buford’s glove which was followed by an uncharacteristic fielding error by Brooks Robinson. The Mets’ hottest hitter, Cleon Jones, jumped on Palmer’s next offering for a RBI single to right center advancing Wayne Garrett to third. Art Shamsky grounded to second for a potential inning-ending twin killing, but Shamsky beat out Mark Belanger’s return throw to first. The Mets had a sudden two-run advantage, and looking for more, Shamsky attempted to steal second base. Elrod Hendricks’ throw beat Shamsky to the bag for the second out. After Ken Boswell grounded out to second to end the inning, Baltimore resembled a heavyweight champion retreating to his corner after a standing eight-count.
New York starter Gary Gentry worked a scoreless first, and Palmer retired the side in the top of the second working around a Jerry Grote double. In the bottom of the frame, Robinson looking for atonement for his first-inning error opened with a double. Brooks advanced to third on Hendricks’ fly out to center, but Gentry struck out Davey Johnson for the second out. But the weakest bat in the Oriole lineup, Mark Belanger, delivered a single up the middle to cut the Met lead in half, and Baltimore was back in the game.
The other first-inning error was redeemed in the bottom of the third when Buford opened with a home run over the outstretched glove of right fielder Ron Swoboda. Gentry retired Paul Blair on a ground out to third, but walked the next batter, Frank Robinson. Boog Powell flew out to center for the second out. On Gentry’s first pitch to Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson stole second base. On Gentry’s second pitch, Brooks Robinson hit the ball deep into the left field bleachers for a 4-2 Oriole lead. The two first-inning errors by Buford and Robinson were redeemed by fourth-inning home runs by the same two men, and the Baltimore faithful loved them for it.
Davey Johnson opened the bottom of the fourth with a home run of his own, and Mets’ manager Gil Hodges relieved Gentry with the veteran Don Cardwell as it began to rain. Cardwell walked Belanger who came around to score Baltimore’s sixth run on another extra-base hit by Don Buford. New York would need three more pitchers, Nolan Ryan, Tug McGraw, and Ron Taylor, to finish the game as Palmer set the Mets down frame after frame. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow, but nothing could dampen the excitement for one final game to decide the world’s championship.