Nine times, the Orioles have captured the lead in the American League East, only to fade, storm back and fade again. Those yo-yo days are done. On Aug. 26, in the midst of a memorable winning streak, Baltimore takes first place for good.
Six straight victories this week give the Orioles (77-53) a three-game cushion that will only grow. Moreover, they do it in style, outscoring opponents 56-15 during the surge and banging out 80 hits for a .364 team average.
They win in imaginative ways. In a 9-0 rout of the Minnesota Twins, outfielder Al Bumbry knocks in two runs on one sacrifice fly. Then, against the Twins, the Orioles pull off two successful sacrifice bunts and win, 11-4.
The Kansas City Royals fall, 9-2, as outfielder John Shelby, a late-inning defensive replacement, hits a grand slam in the ninth. The next night, manager Joe Altobelli’s team rips the Royals, 12-4 as Cal Ripken Jr. hits his 21st homer, Ken Singleton knocks in four runs and John Lowenstein goes 4-for-4.
“The Orioles have the lead and it looks like they don’t want to give it up,” Royals manager Dick Howser says.
They top things off with a 10-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, scoring seven runs in the first inning, capped by a three-run homer by Todd Cruz, the light-hitting third baseman.
“The way these guys hit, you just want to do your share,” Cruz says.