Scott McGregor put the Baltimore Orioles in a quick, early hole tonight, and in this season of the silent bats, quick, early holes are enough.
The Orioles got their quota of runs again, but their quota wasn't enough in a game in which Kirby Puckett hit a pair of homers to lead the Minnesota Twins past the Orioles, 7-3, before 33,914 at Memorial Stadium.
The Twins also got homers from Gary Gaetti and Kent Hrbek as McGregor (6-9) made his second quick exit in a row, tonight lasting only 21 pitches.
Despite that, the Orioles weaved in and out of the game, especially by getting two runs in the last of the eighth to close a 4-1 gap to 4-3.
But reliever Odell Jones wasted seven innings of two-hit ball by Rich Bordi when he let the Twins score three times in the ninth to break it open.
For the Twins, Bert Blyleven (9-8) rationed four hits over seven innings, and Keith Atherton got his seventh save.
"A base hit in the first inning would have broken it open," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said of a wasted bases-full opportunity. "We've just got to get some offense from somewhere. Right now, we have too many holes in our offense."
Right now, the Orioles' offense is like swiss cheese. Their catchers aren't hitting. First baseman Eddie Murray is on the disabled list. Designated hitter Larry Sheets is back off the disabled list, but rusty.
The result tonight was that with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning, the Orioles had to count on rookie first baseman Jim Traber, just up from Rochester. He popped up.
The Orioles had seven hits on the night, but five of them were in the first four spots in the order, only one for extra bases.
"You just can't stick too many .210 hitters in a lineup and expect anything," Weaver said. "Yet if Scott pitches the kind of game Ken Dixon pitched Thursday, we win."
After lasting only two innings Sunday in Chicago, McGregor faced only five Twins and got none of them out. Puckett led off the game with a homer over the fence in right-center.
McGregor made another mistake on the Twins' second hitter, Gaetti, whose 19th homer made it 2-0. Counting his last start, McGregor had given up homers to the last three batters he had faced. That string was broken when he walked Hrbek, but after a single by Tom Brunansky and a run-scoring double by Roy Smalley, McGregor was gone.
"I don't know what the problem is," Weaver said. "I really don't. I don't know what to say except that those guys can hit."
Bordi followed and did a tremendous job, allowing two hits in seven innings. The Twins scored off him only in the third when Hrbek hit his 21st homer of the season.
Puckett's homer in the ninth was his 19th and the Twins' 127th of the season. At their current pace, they would hit 229 and become only the 19th team in major league history to hit 200 homers in a season.
Hrbek's buried Baltimore, 4-0, and with the Orioles ranked near the bottom of the American League in power statistics such as home runs and doubles and even lower in speed stats such as triples and stolen bases, coming back is more than difficult.
In the third, they closed to 4-1 on a double by Lee Lacy, an error by Brunansky in right field and a groundout by Fred Lynn. Cal Ripken followed with a single, but Blyleven retired the next 14 Orioles before Tom O'Malley's leadoff single in the eighth inning.
That was the beginning of the end for Blyleven because Puckett made the Twins' fourth error of the game when he inexplicably dropped Lacy's fly to center.
"I almost blew the game," Puckett said. "It knuckled at the last minute. There's no excuse. I messed up. I've dropped two balls like that, and I'm not supposed to do that."
His error put runners on second and third with none out, and with Lynn coming up, Minnesota Manager Ray Miller brought in left-hander Juan Agosto.
The strategy worked as Agosto struck out Lynn. He then brought in Atherton to pitch to Ripken, which didn't work so well, Ripken fighting off an inside pitch and dumping it into center to score O'Malley and Lacy.
That made it 4-3, and Atherton got Sheets on a fly to center for the second out. Traber kept the inning going by singling to center, with Ripken going to third.
Weaver sent Alan Wiggins in to run for Traber and Jim Dwyer up to bat for Shelby, but Atherton got Dwyer on a grounder to second to end the eighth.
Bordi left after the eighth, and Weaver summoned Jones, who allowed the Twins to break the game back open.
Randy Bush opened the ninth by beating out an infield single. He was bunted to second, but when Mickey Hatcher doubled to center for a run, nothing else was hit softly. Greg Gagne lined out to shortstop Ripken. Puckett hit his second homer. Gaetti singled. Jones got out of the inning by striking out Hrbek, but the damage was done, enough to hand the Orioles their 12th loss in their last 16 home games.
For his team.
Juan Beniquez is expected back in uniform Saturday night. He went to his native Puerto Rico for the all-star break and told the Orioles his father-in-law's illness has caused him to be late in returning . . . Storm Davis pitched four shutout innings and allowed three hits in a rehabilitation assignment at Hagerstown tonight. He's due off the disabled list Tuesday and will start against the White Sox that night.
Mariners 10, Red Sox 4: Danny Tartabull hit a three-run homer and Alvin Davis scored three runs as Seattle handed visiting Boston its third straight defeat.
Yankees 8, White Sox 4: Mike Pagliarulo went three for three, including a three-run homer and an RBI single, and Don Mattingly drove in two runs to defeat Chicago in New York.
Tigers 5, Rangers 0: Jack Morris (10-6) pitched a two-hitter and struck out 11 for his third straight shutout and Kirk Gibson was four for four as Detroit, at home, beat Texas.
Blue Jays 2, Angels 0: Right-hander Jim Clancy (10-5) allowed two hits in 8 1/3 innings in Anaheim, Calif., and became the top winner in Toronto history with 98 victories.
Indians 3, Royals 2: Cleveland ended a three-game losing streak with the victory in Kansas City.
A's 6, Brewers 1: Joaquin Andujar pitched shutout ball over 5 1/3 innings after returning from a six-week injury layoff, and Oakland beat visiting Milwaukee. Before the game, the A's released right-handed pitcher Rick Langford.