BALTIMORE, JUNE 12 -- The Baltimore Orioles were on their way to a lifeless loss tonight when something strange and magical, something very much like 1989, happened to them.

Mickey Tettleton's two-out, full-count home run off Milwaukee ace Dan Plesac in the bottom of the ninth inning made up the last of a three-run deficit. And it set a dramatic stage for Randy Milligan, who drilled Plesac's second pitch of the bottom of the 10th over the right-field fence for a 4-3 victory in front of 27,599 at Memorial Stadium.

All of a sudden, a night that had been so depressing for the Orioles bounced them back to life. It also gave them their 12th victory in 17 games, returned them to .500 (29-29) and got them within three games of first place in the AL East.

It was not this kind of night for 6 1/2 innings, when the Orioles left nine men on base, went zero for eight with runners in scoring position and trailed, 3-0.

"Mickey's home run was the big one," Milligan said. "We were kind of down and it looked like Plesac would have a one-two-three ninth, and then, kaboom! We've started to get that feeling back."

The Orioles had other reasons to celebrate. This was the night Cal Ripken celebrated another historic moment in his marvelous career as he played in his 1,308th consecutive game and moved ahead of Everett Scott and behind only Lou Gehrig on baseball's all-time list.

Ripken admits his eight-year career has become defined by The Streak and that a lot of people don't know he probably is the best package of offense and defense to play shortstop in the 100 or so years of big league baseball.

"It's not something I set out to do," Ripken said. "I don't come to the park thinking that I'm adding a game to the streak. I come in and think this is the only game there's going to be today."

He's still five years away from catching Gehrig and said: "I fight against that thought every day of the year. Everybody asks me that all the time and I just want to continue trying to go out and do things that I can do and try to approach the game the same way. Anything could happen from day to day."

What has happened to him lately has been mostly bad. He's having another terrific defensive year, but his batting average tonight dropped to .213 after going hitless in four at-bats. He's hitting a bone-chilling .167 with runners in scoring position.

He was booed three times tonight after leaving runners on base, but in the glow of a happy clubhouse, it was hard to tell anyone had ever been unhappy.

Orioles starter Jeff Ballard once again pitched well enough to win. B.J. Surhoff and Rob Deer tagged him for home runs, but Ballard allowed only three runs in 6 1/3 innings and could have gotten his second victory with any luck.

That luck didn't come until after he was long gone. The Orioles were three runs down in the bottom of the seventh when Phil Bradley looped a single into center field. Steve Finley lined out and Ripken flied out. Reliever Bob Sebra walked Tettleton, and Brewers Manager Tom Trebelhorn brought in left-hander Tony Fossas.

Orioles Manager Frank Robinson countered with right-hander Brad Komminsk, who singled to left to score Bradley. Trebelhorn then went for Chuck Crim, and Milligan doubled to left to make it 3-2.

Crim struck out Greg Walker to leave the tying and lead run in scoring position, then got the Orioles in order in the eighth.

Trebelhorn gave Plesac the ball to start the ninth, and when he finally left the mound, he'd have his third blown save of the season.

"When you're in a rut, it seems that things that go wrong go wrong," Plesac said. "I wasn't fighting myself. Both pitches were down."

It looked different in the other clubhouse, where Robinson said: "That was a nice, sweet win, to come back like that. We haven't done that in a while. It shows the ballclub is starting to come around and do the things they're capable of doing."

Typically, there were a lot of small heroes wrapped into a bigger story. One of those stories was reliever Mark Williamson, who got the Orioles in a position to win by throwing 3 1/3 shutout innings.

He stayed around until Surhoff's single put Brewers on first and third with two out in the 10th. Gregg Olson (3-0) entered and walked Rob Deer before getting Greg Brock on a fly to center.

"That was a vulture win," Olson said. "I hate wins. I want saves. Willy pitched great. He got us in a position to win."

The Orioles may still be waiting for Ripken's offense to come around, but Tettleton and Milligan have arrived. Tettleton has snapped out of a slow start and hit eight home runs and driven in 24 runs in his last 25 games. Milligian has four home runs in his last 13 at-bats.

"You certainly do go up there thinking about hitting the ball out of the park," Tettleton said. "You just hope to get a pitch you can hit hard. You want to maybe get on and give someone else a chance to drive you in. I'm not complaining, though. I'll take it."