The Baltimore Orioles' dressing room was as silent as the team's bats tonight after the Minnesota Twins breezed to a 6-1 victory that extended the Birds' bath to five games.
Manager Joe Altobelli closed the door and talked to the players. Although he insisted he was offering encouragement rather than chastisement, not a creature was stirring or speaking above a whisper when the media were allowed to enter.
"I told them primarily not to get their dobbers down," Altobelli said. "I don't want them to think the world is against them. We're still five games over .500. We're within striking distance.
"I'm not frustrated, really I'm not. I am highly concerned. Losing five in a row, we'd all better be concerned. But I really feel we're on the verge of breaking loose."
That is an optimistic approach for the manager of a club whose lone run resulted from a bunt single and three walks in the first inning. The Orioles managed only six hits off right-hander Bobby Castillo, who became the second Minnesota pitcher to throw a complete game this season.
The first was left-hander Frank Viola, who accomplished it against Baltimore 24 hours earlier.
Orioles starter Scott McGregor yielded eight hits, including two homers and three doubles, in six innings. In the first two games of this series, the Twins have 22 hits, including seven homers and six doubles.
Over the last 12 games, Minnesota has hit at a .310 clip, scored 80 runs and posted an 8-4 record. In contrast, the Orioles over the last seven games have batted .176 and scored only 13 runs.
Among the more notable slumpers are John Lowenstein, now zero for 23; Eddie Murray, four for 27, and 29 games without a homer, and Rich Dauer, six for 41. None of them hit safely tonight.
Aurelio Rodriguez, starting for the first time this season as Altobelli hoped his presence "would maybe give the ball club a little lift," had his first two hits as an Oriole. But the former Gold Glove third baseman booted an easy one in the fourth and it led to an unearned run.
Castillo, the ex-Dodger who taught Fernando Valenzuela the mechanics of the screwball, found in Baltimore's impotent bats a quick cure for his recently stiff neck and shoulder muscles.
"The first couple innings I was too strong," Castillo said. "My body wanted to get out in front of my arm. As the game progressed, I got loose and into a rhythm."
It would have been easy for the Orioles to think the world was against them tonight. Minnesota scored first when John Castino's first-inning homer hit the foul pole in left. It scored last on a strikeout, Mickey Hatcher coming in from third with two out in the ninth when Ron Washington swung at a third strike in the dirt and it got through catcher Joe Nolan.
There were two close plays at the plate and each time the call went against Baltimore. Nolan was thrown out, despite a fine fadeaway slide, trying to score on Dan Ford's second-inning fly to left fielder Gary Ward. The Twins' Dave Engle, on the other hand, was safe wheeling from first on Washington's fourth-inning double into the left field corner.
Washington, another ex-Dodger, had three RBI despite batting ninth. The other Minnesota run came on Tom Brunansky's second-inning homer, his third in two games here.
McGregor gave up five hits in the second inning, but a double play and his own inning-ending recovery of a smash off his glove limited the Twins to two runs. McGregor was relieved by Sammy Stewart after six innings and departed having retired eight straight batters.
"He (McGregor) will pitch on Saturday and he can use the extra rest," Altobelli said.
For a final note of distress, righthander Jim Palmer was found to have tendinitis in the biceps of the right shoulder. He has been ordered not to throw and will remain on the disabled list.