Oriole Magic, huh? In their latest escape act at Memorial Stadium today, the Baltimore Orioles locked themselves in a safe, and nine fitful innings later, they were still hollering for a locksmith.
The final was Minnesota 7, Baltimore 3 before 27,966, but that doesn't begin to describe the lifelessness of the Orioles, who are still in first place in the American League East by percentage points over Toronto. First baseman Eddie Murray botched a slow roller. Second baseman Rich Dauer let a throw from the outfield kick off the heel of his glove for an error that allowed a runner to advance after a fly out. The boobirds circled.
Meanwhile, three Orioles pitchers allowed 15 hits, four by lumbering first baseman Kent Hrbek. This barrage included a first-inning grand slam by designated hitter Randy Bush. Imagine what the score might have been if the Twins hadn't left 13 runners on base.
Worse yet, no Oriole reached second base against Twins left-hander Frank Viola (6-2) until the ninth, when the Orioles trailed, 7-0. On the good side for Baltimore, outfielder Fred Lynn continued his ninth-inning Houdinism, with his bat serving as the wand.
Lynn had beaten the Twins with game-winning home runs in the bottom of the ninth on Friday and Saturday. Today, after Cal Ripken Jr. doubled (the first Oriole to reach second base) and Murray walked in the ninth, Lynn drove a three-run homer over the wall in left-center field with two outs.
Lynn's seventh homer of the season was only the fourth hit allowed by Viola. Said Lynn, "It's not a good sign when the home team bats in the ninth inning three games in a row. I'd rather win games in 8 1/2 innings . . . (But) it's not like it was a meaningless situation. I wanted to spoil his shutout."
It was not surprising that, at game's end, Twins Manager Billy Gardner was suggesting that Viola is a potential Cy Young award winner and saying, "Next time, I'm going to walk Fred Lynn in the ninth."
Viola leads the AL in victories and innings pitched. Before the ninth, the only hits he had allowed were Rick Dempsey's drag bunt in the third and Mike Young's infield single in the fifth.
"What makes Frank tough is that he's throwing 89-90 miles per hour and he's just out of the (strike) zone a lot," Lynn said. "And that's what makes the pitches so inviting. You pop a lot of them up."
Viola, the former St. John's University pitcher with a Hempstead, N.Y., accent, won 18 games last year, most of any left-hander in baseball.
"You have days like today with good stuff," Viola said, "but with a 7-0 lead, it makes you look that much better."
This one was over early. Ken Dixon (3-1) started for the Orioles. The 24-year-old right-hander had not yielded more than one run in any of his previous four starts and had a league-best 1.52 ERA.
Today, though, Dixon was torched. He allowed a leadoff single to Kirby Puckett, a popped-up bunt hit to Mickey Hatcher and a walk to Tom Brunansky before Bush hit his one-out grand slam over the 360-foot sign in right.
Dixon allowed six hits and four runs before he was lifted in the third, his ERA swollen a full point to 2.53. Perhaps he found solace in the fact that the Twins (.297) do lead the league in hitting, after all.
"There's a lesson in the way things happen," Dixon said. "I knew how to pitch to Kirby Puckett and I knew how to pitch to Hrbek. But when I got to Bush, I didn't know much about the guy. Now I know that if you go out there and feel good, you still have to be smart on having to pitch to hitters. I felt good today."
Before today, Bush, making his first start of the season, had managed one hit in seven at bats.
After a homer and two doubles today, Bush admitted, "When I got to the park, I noticed how bad it looked outside. Then it started to rain and I looked at my name on the lineup card and I figured, 'It's going to rain all day.' "
The Orioles stewed a bit in the Twins' fourth. That's when, with one out and runners on first and second, Hatcher hit a grounder to Ripken. The shortstop bobbled the ball momentarily, then stepped on second and threw to first for an apparent inning-ending double play.
However, umpire Vic Voltaggio ruled the runner, outfielder Puckett, safe at second. "(Voltaggio) said I touched the bag, but that I touched it after I threw the ball," said Ripken. "It's hard for me to say."
After the game, Voltaggio told a pool reporter a different story, saying, "Ripken got to the bag too late. He kept juggling the ball and by the time he got there (to second), Puckett was already there."
Orioles Manager Joe Altobelli raced onto the field to dispute the call. Hrbek followed with a two-run double that made for a 6-0 lead.
Altobelli said later, "Kind of a tough play for a guy to miss, don't you think?"