If Cal Ripken Jr. could play 81 games a year here in the Metrodome, baseball might have its next .400 hitter and 60-home run man.
Today, Ripken had five hits in six at bats, drove in four runs and led Baltimore's 10-5 demolition of the Minnesota Twins before 35,948.
A double in the first inning, and run-producing hits in the fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth boosted Ripken's batting average to .337, putting him among the American League batting leaders. He also took over the league RBI lead with 24, one more than Oakland's Mike Davis.
Ripken came into this three-game series hitting .270. But 10 hits in 15 at bats, including three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI, kicked up his average almost 70 points.
"I can't explain it," he said. "I see the ball well here, I know that. There's a good background of dark blue. I'd rather play outside than inside because it's a little darker in here. But maybe that makes me concentrate harder. Actually, I think it's a confidence thing; I believe I can hit here."
Ripken and many of his teammates hit well here, in taking two of three games from a team that had won 10 straight coming into the series.
Today, the Orioles defeated John Butcher (3-2), who started with a 5-0 lifetime record against them. Jim Dwyer had a two-run, upper-deck home run in Baltimore's five-run fourth. Catcher Joe Nolan, starting for Rick Dempsey, had two run-scoring hits. Larry Sheets and Gary Roenicke each had two hits. The Orioles, as a team, had seven doubles.
"We finally found out that Butcher is human," Baltimore Manager Joe Altobelli said.
The Orioles' 10 runs and 16 hits supported Mike Boddicker (4-1), who ran into trouble in the third and fourth innings, but settled down to pitch 7 1/3 before Don Aase took over for the final five outs.
Boddicker usually wouldn't be happy allowing 10 hits and four earned runs. But the Metrodome forces a pitcher to revise his standards. "I think I did pretty well for this place," he said. "There's no safe lead here, and definitely not a four- or five-run lead."
Nolan drove in a run in the second to put Baltimore ahead, 1-0. The Orioles fell behind, 2-1, in the third when Boddicker allowed a two-run double to Mickey Hatcher.
But Baltimore came back with its five-run fourth for a 6-2 lead. The Orioles had two out and a runner on first when Nolan drove in the first run of that inning with a double.
Rich Dauer brought in the second run with a single to left and Dwyer followed with his second homer of the season. Doubles by Wayne Gross and Ripken produced the fifth run and knocked out Butcher, who came into the game with an earned run average of 2.30.
The Twins got two runs in their half of the fourth, with the help of Boddicker's wild pitch. Boddicker, perhaps one hit away from being removed, then retired Minnesota's two hottest hitters -- Mark Salas (.381) and Kirby Puckett (.351).
An RBI single by Ripken in the sixth pushed the lead to 7-4. The Orioles scored twice more in the seventh -- again, after two were out -- and another in the ninth on Ripken's final hit. Meanwhile, Boddicker and Aase held the Twins' hitters.
The victory gave the Orioles nine victories in 11 games heading into Kansas City, where they will begin a two-game series Tuesday.
It would be easy to understand why Ripken might have mixed emotions about leaving. There was nothing fluky about what he did today. In September 1983, he had five hits in one game here and Baltimore won, 13-0.
Minnesota Manager Billy Gardner was ready to stand at the door of the Metrodome and wave bye-bye to Ripken and the Orioles.
"He'd hit a ton if he played 81 games here," Gardner said. "The guy had an incredible series. And the thing about it is, the guy in back of him (Eddie Murray) isn't hitting. Somebody asked me why I didn't intentionally walk Ripken those last couple of times to get to Murray (one for 13 in the series).
"And I said, 'Are you crazy? I don't want to get that guy mad at me and wake him up. If Murray hits in this series, they could have swept."
Ripken noted, "The least of our worries is Eddie Murray." Altobelli said pretty much the same thing, even though Murray's batting average dropped 33 points, to .217, in this series. Why worry about a player who has averaged nearly 30 homers and 100 RBI for his eight-year career?
But Altobelli is concerned about second-year outfielder Mike Young, who had a shaky series at the plate -- hitless his last nine at bats, including six strikeouts -- and in the field. Altobelli said Young is one of the players his staff will work with on Tuesday, after an off day Monday.
But overall, the Orioles could hardly be in much better shape. After 24 games, as Altobelli said, "We're happy to be (in first place in the American League East) where we want to be."
Despite winning two of three, Altobelli appeared quite ready to get out of the Metrodome, a stadium that forces a manager to keep pitchers ready and to look for extra runs, no matter how large the lead.
"This place is damn tough on managers," he said. "I think this is the park Yogi meant when he said, 'It ain't over till it's over.' "
Outfielder Lee Lacy, who tore ligaments in his right thumb during spring training, will be examined in Baltimore Monday. He will join the Orioles' farm club in Hagerstown, Md., for batting practice through Thursday.