MINNEAPOLIS, JULY 3 -- The results may not change much during the next three months, but after a month of stacking one loss on another, the Baltimore Orioles are about to change.
That was clear tonight even before a 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Minnesota Twins before 26,331 at the Metrodome and will get clearer in the next week or so. The Orioles (31-48) have lost 28 of their last 33 games, and even if tonight's plot was new, which it was, the result wasn't.
The change in the plot was that the Orioles at least made the game interesting. Larry Sheets' two-run single off Minnesota's fourth pitcher, Jeff Reardon, with two outs in the top of the ninth brought the Orioles from a 5-3 deficit to a 5-5 tie.
However, in the last of the 11th, the Twins won the game against reliever Tom Niedenfuer (1-1). He had worked a scoreless ninth and 10th, but in the 11th, Tom Brunansky led off with a double to left-center. Tim Laudner walked. Niedenfuer then almost got out of it.
Greg Gagne popped up a bunt for one out, and Dan Gladden struck out for another. But Steve Lombardozzi, hitting .230, singled to center, scoring Brunansky with the winning run.
The victory went to Reardon (5-4), who pitched three shutout innings, but failed in a chance for his 17th save in the ninth. Orioles starter Mike Boddicker pitched decently, but ended up allowing five runs in eight innings. Two of those runs resulted mainly from of defensive mistakes.
If the Orioles needed any more convincing that their season won't end in a pennant race, they got it this afternoon when they were told that reliever Don Aase will undergo surgery on his right shoulder and be out for the year.
"Do you think one guy can make a difference?" asked General Manager Hank Peters, who arrived here to discuss personnel moves with Manager Cal Ripken Sr.
Peters pointed to a sheet that had Aase's 1986 midseason statistics. He already had saved 21 games on his way to a club-record 34. He finishes this season with just two. After three months, the entire bullpen has only 14.
Peters joined the Orioles here just in time to announce the news about Aase. He also said it may be about time to play for 1988 instead of 1987.
"Since we can't work any trades," he said, "there are some internal moves we're interested in making. I imagine we'll be doing something in the next week or so."
Peters wouldn't specify what the moves would be, but he did say veteran Scott McGregor (2-7, 6.69 earned run average) might not be pitching anymore. This presumably means his release is a possibility -- a situation that would results in an even greater reliance on younger pitchers. One rookie (Eric Bell) is in the rotation and another (John Hayban) may join him.
Peters also wouldn't rule out bringing some other rookies to the majors and hinted that Rochester second baseman Billy Ripken was a possibility. That move would allow the Orioles to get a look at Ripken and also get highly-regarded Charlotte second baseman Pete Stanicek promoted to Rochester.
In any case, it's unlikely any of them would have helped the Orioles tonight in a game that proved Boddicker's value. He stayed in the game for eight innings and 120 pitches despite suffering back spasms so severe that early in the game he was getting rubdowns between innings.
"What it did was take my breaking ball away," Boddicker said. "This was probably the third time in my big league career I didn't have either of my breaking pitches, and the other two times I lasted about an inning. After about the seventh or eighth inning, it loosened up."
Eddie Murray got the first of his two runs batted in on a double that gave Boddicker and the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the first inning. But Boddicker couldn't hold it. In the second, the Twins took a 2-1 lead on a two-run single by Kent Hrbek.
They stretched it to 5-2 in the fourth when the Orioles played one of their sloppiest innings of the season. With one out, Laudner hit his 10th homer to make it 3-1.
Gagne then tripled to right as Jim Dwyer raced to the wall and got a glove on a ball that skipped away from him. That play got the Twins another run, sort of. After Gagne was thrown out at the plate on an infield grounder by Dan Gladden, Gladden scored when Al Newman hit a fly to shallow right.
Rick Burleson went out, Dwyer came in, and the ball ended up rolling in and out of Burleson's glove for another triple. That scored Gladden, and Newman scored on Boddicker's wild pitch for a 5-1 lead.
The Orioles got back in the game in the top of the sixth when they scored twice off Twins starter Mike Smithson to make it 5-3. Dwyer singled with one out and went to third on Cal Ripken Jr.'s double. Murray's infield grounder scored Dwyer, and Lynn's double scored Ripken.
Trailing, 5-3, the Orioles tied it in the ninth. Twins reliever Juan Berenguer walked Murray to lead off the inning, and Twins Manager Tom Kelly brought in left-hander Dan Schatzeder to face the left-hand batting Lynn.
Lynn spoiled the strategy by doubling off the right field curtain. Kelly then brought in Reardon. He struck out Ray Knight and Terry Kennedy and went to 1-2 on Sheets, who bounced a single up the middle to score both runs for a 5-5 tie that lasted until the Twins won it in the 11th.
Mike Flanagan made the first of three rehabilitation starts for Rochester tonight, pitching three innings at Pawtucket. He allowed four hits, one run and struck out one. He is scheduled to make two more starts for Rochester before getting one for the Orioles July 18 in Kansas City.