Jim Palmer pitched the fifth one-hitter of his career, yielding only a fifth-inning single to Gary Gaetti tonight, as the Orioles moved into second place in the American East by defeating the Minnesota Twins, 3-0.
It was Palmer's 11th straight victory, matching his career best streak, and his second shutout in a row.
For the second time in two weeks, the Orioles compiled a seven-game winning streak; they have won 14 of 15 games. After being in third for 64 days, Baltimore finally climbed over Boston and was able to focus on the true target -- Milwaukee, four games away after beating California, 8-2, tonight.
Eddie Murray provided the only essential runs with a two-run homer, his 26th, off right-hander Bobby Castillo in the first inning.
Palmer struck out seven and walked only two as he threw 116 pitches, 78 for strikes. He used his slider 19 times, frequently for out pitches, and tried only six changeups, the pitch he depended on often in Tuesday's 1-0 victory at Toronto.
"I'd pay $100 to sit behind home plate and watch him pitch on a night like this," said Ray Miller, the pitching coach, who has become Palmer's unofficial spokesman since the pitcher stopped dissecting his games for the media in June. "He changed speeds, moved the ball around in the strike zone. It had to be frustrating for those young hitters."
Palmer was willing to talk about the fans tonight, if not the game, because he received a much more stirring tribute than the usual postvictory adulation.
As Palmer trudged in from the bullpen before the start, he was applauded by the crowd of 19,536. He expressed his appreciation not with a tip of the cap, but by retiring the first 14 batters. "That was a very nice gesture on their part," said Palmer, wearing a Minnesota Twins T-shirt. "That hasn't happened since the 1973 playoffs. You have to be a little apprehensive when you go out to throw, though."
If Palmer was apprehensive, it was with little reason, because no Minnesota runner got past first base.
Gaetti singled past shortstop Cal Ripken's straining left arm into center field on an 0-1 fast ball, chin high, with two out in the fifth. Lenny Faedo walked on four pitches with one out in the sixth and pinch hitter Randy Bush walked on a 3-2 pitch as the leadoff batter in the ninth. None advanced.
The pass to Bush, after Palmer had been ahead 0-2, brought Manager Earl Weaver to the mound.
"He was tired, no doubt about it," Weaver said. "But he was in there until he gave up a run. He said he was getting tired in the seventh or eighth, so I should have guys ready in the bullpen, but I didn't think I'd have to use them. That was an outstanding pitching performance."
Miller said Palmer was brilliant from his first warmup in the bullpen to the game's last out, when he jammed Tom Brunansky into an infield pop.
"It scared me, he looked so great in the warmup," Miller said. "Sometimes he looks like that and gets shelled. He said after the first inning that he didn't think he had as good stuff as when he was warming, but you couldn't prove it by the result. He's pitching better now than any time since I came here (in 1978)."
Palmer's second straight shutout, the 53rd of his career, and current 20-inning scoreless string came after four seasons without a route-going shutout. His last one-hitter was recorded against the Twins here six years ago. His only no-hitter came in 1969, against Oakland.
An extra-base barrage was costly for Castillo, whose principal claim to fame was teaching Fernando Valenzuela how to throw a screwball when the two were Mexican League teammates in 1979.
Castillo's offerings were no mystery to Glenn Gulliver, who lined a first-inning double down the right field line, or to Murray, who lofted a fly ball over the fence in right a few moments later.
Brunansky, who tracked Murray's blast to the fence and vainly tried to climb it, watched Ripken's sliced liner sail over his head for a triple to open the second. Ripken scored the game's final run on Gary Roenicke's first hit in a week, a ground single to center.
Ripken now leads the Orioles in triples (five) as well as doubles (27). His 22 homers are second only to Murray.