In a chilly stadium, one with all the atmosphere of an elevator, the Baltimore Orioles rediscovered their magic touch, hitting three home runs to beat the Minnesota Twins, 5-3, tonight.
A year ago, on their way to a club-record 214 homers, the Orioles hit three or more homers 25 times, but tonight they did it for only the second time in 24 games this season. They came here having gone three games without a home run and with only 15 in their first 23 games.
Juan Bonilla, making his fifth start at second base, led off the game with a homer off Frank Viola (3-2); first baseman Eddie Murray hit his fifth in the third inning, a two-run shot; and right fielder Lee Lacy hit his first to lead off the seventh.
With 11,836 listening to the piped-in music and assorted noises of the Metrodome, the Orioles needed every one of those homers as Storm Davis (2-1) and Don Aase combined on an eight-hitter.
"I hope it's a reincarnation, coming back to life," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said. "Maybe. I hope. It was just a good game. Not the World Series, but we'll win a helluva lot more than our share if we keep holding the opposition to three."
The victory pushed the Orioles back to .500 at 12-12, and they remained four games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians in the American League East.
Davis was coming off his only bad start of the season, in which he was knocked out in the third inning and helped blow a 4-0 lead in Chicago. This night, he was at his best, limiting the Twins to seven hits, three runs and one walk in 7 2/3 innings. After five starts, he has a 2.91 ERA.
Davis was in trouble only a couple of times, once in the first inning when an error by third baseman Floyd Rayford put him in a hole and again in the seventh until Bonilla turned a tough double play on Mark Salas' grounder.
"The first inning wasn't vintage Storm Davis, but everything else was," said Twins Manager Ray Miller, the former Orioles pitching coach. "He was throwing 92 mph, and . . . he was in a good groove. Viola walked some guys six , and Storm didn't. That was the difference. When he's on his game, you just have to hope your club will stay close."
Davis agreed, saying: "The walks column is the important thing here. Anytime you play, especially here, the walks are the things you have to watch. The one I gave to Kent Hrbek in the first inning was intentional because, as he showed later, he can hit the ball a long way here."
Lacy's homer gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead in the top of the seventh, but the Twins scored one in the seventh, and when Hrbek hit a towering homer into the upper deck in right field with two outs in the eighth, Weaver went for Aase, who got his sixth save in 12 games and lowered his ERA to 1.35.
The Orioles started quickly as Bonilla hit Viola's fourth pitch into the seats in left field. The home run was only his sixth in the big leagues, and his first since 1983. A year ago, at class AAA Columbus, he hit one.
The home run was nice, but the double play he turned on Salas in the seventh probably turned Weaver's head even more, especially with regular second baseman Alan Wiggins hitting only .211 and having made two errors.
"I'm not a home run hitter," Bonilla said, "but maybe I'll get lucky and hit two this year."
The Twins came right back in the last of the first inning to tie it, 1-1, the only really shaky inning Davis had.
Designated hitter Roy Smalley led off with a single to right, and after center fielder Kirby Puckett forced him at second, Puckett stole second. Davis then walked Hrbek, and wild-pitched Puckett to third.
Right fielder Tom Brunansky hit a hard bouncer that Rayford couldn't handle, with Puckett scoring.
After Brunansky's grounder, Davis settled down, retiring 13 of the next 16 Twins he faced and leaving only one runner on base.
Meanwhile, the Orioles were getting him some runs. In the third, Viola walked Ripken, and went to 3-2 on Murray, who fouled one pitch back before hitting a booming shot to left field for a 3-1 lead.
Lacy's homer made it 4-1 in the seventh, and that gave Davis the cushion he needed. The Twins came back with a run in the last of the seventh when third baseman Gary Gaetti doubled and scored on shortstop Greg Gagne's single. Bonilla then turned the double play on Salas and pinch-hitter Billy Beane struck out.
Viola was all over the place, striking out six and walking six in his 8 1/3 innings.
"I nit-picked instead of challenging," Viola said. "Six walks is not me. I got Eddie Murray on a change-up the first time, and tried to do it a second time the homer . I should have gone after him."
Since his three-for-32 start, Murray has gone 19 for 56 (.339) with five homers and 15 RBI, a stretch that covers only 16 games . . . Although Murray is tied for the team lead in RBI, he has driven in a run in only five of 24 games, and his five homers have produced 13 of his 15 RBI . . . The Orioles haven't won back-to-back games since April 19-20.