Minnesota Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres knew the potential danger. Curt Wardle had pitched quite effectively over four innings of relief.
But when he walked Fritz Connally with two out in the eighth, bringing Baltimore's Cal Ripken to the plate, Podres walked to the mound for a quick chat with Wardle. And most of the 30,088 here in the Metrodome applauded when Wardle stayed in the game.
Two pitches later, possibly before Podres had reclaimed his seat in the dugout, Ripken hit a tremendous homer into the left field seats, breaking a tie and leading the Orioles to a zany 8-7 victory tonight, snapping Minnesota's winning streak at 10 games.
Don Aase, with his second straight superb relief performance, pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to raise his record this season to 3-0.
"I just took a chance that he'd throw a breaking pitch," said Ripken, who tied Brook Robinson's club record by playing in his 463rd consecutive game. "He'd been getting guys out with it. I took he chance he'd throw it to me. And he did."
Wardle had to chuckle when he recalled his conversation with Podres before Ripken came up. "He said to me, 'Remember, this is Ripken. Don't give him too many fast balls. Mix it up. Make sure you change up.' I changed him up all right. I threw him a slow curve. But Cal Ripken's hit a lot of home runs off a lot of people. I can't feel too bad."
Twice, Baltimore led by as many as four runs. But the Twins tied the game in the seventh, 6-6, by knocking out reliever Sammy Stewart, then drawing a bases-loaded walk from Tippy Martinez.
Ripken's homer, the third for Baltimore -- Jim Dwyer and Fred Lynn homered earlier -- was his third hit of the game and put the Orioles ahead by two. Minnesota scored a run in the eighth for the final margin.
It looked as if the Twins had tied it again with two out in the ninth when Gary Gaetti's drive sailed into the left field stands, but it curved foul by inches. Gaetti, who had homered in the second, flew out to the left-field warning track to end the game.
Aase twisted his body in agony when he thought the ball was fair. And Ripken said, "When I heard it, I knew it could be out of here. I didn't have a good angle, but I was screaming for it to go foul. It wasn't foul by much."
Gaetti had hit into an inning-ending double play in the seventh with the bases loaded. But it didn't sour his perspective on a wonderful nine innings of baseball. "Man, that was a great game," he said.
Minnesota's Kirby Puckett had four hits but could not make a winner of Wardle (0-1).
Despite winning its eighth game in nine, the Orioles looked as if they never had played on an artificial turf before tonight. Baltimore never has been a great turf team. And in the Metrodome, at times the Orioles seemed completely lost.
At least three and perhaps as many as five Minnesota runs were helped across by Baltimore outfielders losing battles with the rug.
In the Minnesota second, Greg Gagne hit what should have been a routine bloop single into left field. But it bounced so high off the carpet, Gagne went to second with a double while Lynn watched in frustration.
Gagne then scored when Tim Teufel's line drive hit bounced over Mike Young's head to the left field wall for another double.
"This field is for the birds," Lynn said. "If you go for it and miss, it's a triple to the wall, maybe an inside-the-park homer. If you let it bounce up, like I did once, it's a double.
"I've seen high bounces on turf before, but I've never seen a line drive bounce over a guy's head who's 6-foot-3. You gotta be 6-5 to play the outfield here."
Young just rolled his eyes to the ceiling and said, "Nice field."
Fortunately for Baltimore, the Orioles had run up a 4-0 lead in the second on Young's RBI double, Rick Dempsey's RBI ground out and Dwyer's two-run homer.
Minnesota made it 4-2 in the bottom of the. Lynn's two-run homer in the third gave Baltimore a 6-2 lead. But in the fourth, Puckett hit a ball that bounced over Lynn's head for a two-run triple and a 6-4 game.
"A lot of different things happen in this park that don't normally happen," Ripken said. "And (the Twins) do a good job of taking advantage of everything."
With all the hitting taking place, neither starter lasted very long. Baltimore's Scott McGregor was finished after 3 2/3 innings and Minnesota's Mike Smithson lasted 3 1/3.
The Orioles might have had a bigger cushion had they not left 10 men on base, three of them in the sixth when Lynn struck out with the bases loaded. But the Twins, the best hitting team in the league (.284 team average coming into the game), stranded eight.