The Baltimore Orioles' sixth straight victory tonight was their simplest yet, thanks to a six-hitter from Mike Boddicker and Don Aase, home runs from Mike Young and Juan Beniquez and three hits from leadoff man Alan Wiggins.
After having had three straight games decided in the seventh inning or later, the Orioles scored all of their runs in the first four innings in a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. They led, 2-1, after two innings, 4-1 after three and 5-1 after four.
Baltimore not only matched its longest victory streak since 1983, but in improving its record to 18-14 moved into a third-place tie with Cleveland, within 2 1/2 games of first-place Boston in the American League East.
"The guys seem to be relaxed since the first couple of wins," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said, "and they've taken the last couple in stride. Exciting wins are good. Everyone's jubilant when you come in the clubhouse, but just to come in with a routine win and feel like you're going to do it again tomorrow, that's good, too."
The best news came from Young, who had both his first home run and first game-winning RBI. The homer came off Twins starter Frank Viola (4-3) in the second inning. It was one of 11 hits Viola allowed in eight innings.
Wiggins went three for five and scored two runs to raise his average to a season-high .272. In the Orioles' last 11 games, he has been every bit the offensive catalyst the club hoped he would be when he was acquired from San Diego last summer.
In the 11 games, he has gone 18 for 46, scored six runs and raised his average from .175.
Boddicker (4-0) was anything but sharp, walking a career-high seven batters and allowing six hits in 7 1/3 innings. Yet, again, when he particularly needed to get a man out, he did.
He was especially tough on Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett, who came up three times with runners on base and lined into a double play, popped out and struck out.
Aase pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for his ninth save. Aase has five saves and a victory in his last six appearances. Only Dave Righetti of the New York Yankees, with 10, has more saves in the American League.
The Orioles got to Viola for five runs and 10 hits in the first four innings and the fact that Viola persevered and finished with a 135-pitch complete game may have been the most remarkable feat of the night.
A night earlier, Twins Manager Ray Miller had turned a 2-1 lead over to the league's worst bullpen and come away with an 8-3 loss. That bullpen is 2-7 with a 7.06 ERA and has a league-low three saves.
Recently, Miller said, "At least, we know what our problems are. We lead the league in home runs and our starting pitching is good. We just need a couple of guys to come out of the bullpen and get people out."
He has tried to find someone, bringing in Frank Pastore, Mark Portugal, Juan Agosto and Roy Lee Jackson since the season started.
They haven't been the answer, and this night he stayed with Viola.
The Orioles scored once in the first inning, once in the second, twice in the third, once in the fourth and Viola, who was having one of his few bad nights this season, needed 102 pitches just to finish five innings.
In the first, Wiggins helped give the Orioles a 1-0 lead when he singled, went to third on Eddie Murray's single and scored on Fred Lynn's bouncing single to center.
The Twins tied it in the top of the second when Gary Gaetti hit his eighth homer of the season, but the Orioles came back to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning.
They got the game-winning RBI, and they got it in a way they'd been waiting for -- via Young's home run.
Young hit 28 homers last season, 20 after the all-star break, but had hit only one in his last 47 games and had gone 32 games without one.
"It seems I haven't been getting it up in the air or else I've been hitting it right at someone," Young said. "I've hit outs harder than that, but I did get it out. I knew I'd have to adjust this season because teams weren't going to pitch me the same way.
"I've been getting breaking balls outside and fastballs in, and it has taken me a while to get everything straight."
His last homer had come off Boston's Bruce Hurst on Oct. 1, 1985. There was no doubt about his first of 1986, as Viola got a fastball over the middle of the plate and Young sent it over the left field fence.
Baltimore made it 4-1 in the third when Lynn singled again and Beniquez hit his first homer of the season, a towering shot that just cleared the fence in left.
In the fourth, Wiggins opened with a double to left, went to third on Viola's wild pickoff throw and scored on Cal Ripken's sacrifice fly to left to make it 5-1.
Boddicker walked four in the first four innings, but after Beniquez's two-run homer, there was something less than suspense in the night air.
"The finger bothered me a litle," Boddicker said of the one that put him on the disabled list for 15 days. "The main thing was my fastball wasn't moving like it has been. The walks don't look good, but there were some semi-intentional ones mixed in there."
Miller, the former Orioles pitching coach, saluted his ex-pupil, saying, "You can't go out and stop him when he's winning. He'll win 20 games if he gets some runs."
The Twins had their best chance in the third when Steve Lombardozzi led off with a single and Boddicker walked Roy Smalley. But Boddicker got out of the jam when Puckett hit a liner to Wiggins, who turned it into a double play. Kent Hrbek then singled, but Boddicker got Tom Brunansky on a grounder to Ripken at shortstop to end the inning.
The Twins put two runners on in the fifth when Boddicker handed Lombardozzi and Smalley one-out walks, but he got Puckett on a popup to Wiggins and Hrbek on a grounder to Murray.
The Twins closed to 5-3 in the seventh when Tim Laudner drew a leadoff walk and Smalley beat out an infield hit. Hrbek singled to right to score both runs.
When Boddicker gave Randy Bush a one-out walk in the eighth, Weaver went for Aase.
Reliever Tippy Martinez will fly to Portland, Maine, Tuesday to join Class AAA Rochester. He is scheduled to pitch three games for the Red Wings. If all goes well, he'll rejoin the Orioles May 28 in Oakland. He has made a remarkable recovery from the dizzy spells that have had him on the disabled list since April 19. "The doctor said he couldn't believe it," Martinez said. "I feel like I'm throwing well, and I'm not having any of the dizziness. I was getting worried because I kept hearing about guys who had these kinds of things linger for a year or more" . . .
Designated hitter Larry Sheets was late arriving at the stadium because his wife, Sharon, gave birth to their first child, a 7-pound 6-ounce girl who they have named Lauren.