This one came right out of the Oriole Magic file.
Bottom of the ninth inning in a game that always seemed to want to get away. The opposing manager walking your best hitter purposely, intent on not allowing him to beat his team, which is clinging precariously to a 15-game winning streak.
Two strikes on the hitter, who appears unable to catch up to the heat of Rick Aguilera, the Minnesota Twins' highly successful closer with the aforementioned intentional walk on first representing the game winner.
Then, like a bolt out of the blue, Randy Milligan delivers a shot that bounces off the left-center-field wall for a two-run, game-winning double and the Baltimore Orioles prevail, 6-5, in their most dramatic game of the season.
This was a testament to the perseverance of the Orioles, who hit into three double plays (two of them unorthodox) to kill rallies and seemed unable to catch a break against a Twins team that was piling them up like building blocks.
Minnesota scored its last three runs on a chopping grounder, a soft, looping single and a seeing-eye roller for a single.
But in the ninth, with Aguilera coming on for close-out purposes, the Orioles did everything by the book to end a five-game home losing streak and win the kind of game that can ignite good things.
"Those guys came in here flying high," said Milligan. "They had won for over two weeks, and every time they had an opportunity to score, it seemed like they did. We had to do everything right just to beat them."
In the ninth, that meant singles by David Segui and Brady Anderson, the latter moving pinch runner Juan Bell only to second. Mike Devereaux sacrificed both runners perfectly, then pinch hitter Joe Orsulak hit a sacrifice fly to left to bring the Orioles to within 5-4.
That brought up Cal Ripken, who had already had a home run, his sixth straight multi-hit game and 31st of the season. Minnesota's Tom Kelly defied the baseball tenet that dictates a manager never put the winning run on base.
But these were extraordinary circumstances and while it wasn't the book move, it was the logical one.
"That's the right thing to do, I believe," said Kelly. "If I had to do it over again, I'd do the same thing. Rick just put the pitch [to Milligan] right down the middle of the plate. That's the way it goes."
Milligan said he did not take the move personally. "If I'm the manager I'm thinking the same thing," he said. "I'm not going to let their best hitter beat me."
Instead, Milligan, who is warming up himself at the plate, beat him on a 1-2 pitch and lifted the Orioles out of last place in the American League East for the first time since May 11.
"I thought Cal might be walked," said Orioles manager John Oates. "It's a move that has to be made. I would have done the same thing. But Randy is hitting pretty well lately, too."
The Twins, who had not lost a game this month, took the defeat philosophically.
"It was inevitable," said Kirby Puckett. "It was going to happen sometime, but nobody knew when. If you're going to lose, I
guess that's a good way to lose.
"I guess a lot of guys in this room are relieved that it's over."
"It's over with," said Kent Hrebk. "We weren't going to get crazy over winning 15 games in a row because we have a long way to go. In that situation, you want to have your best pitcher out there and we did."
Kelly said "some of the heat is off" with the streak ended. "It was a real exciting time for us and the ballclub. I told the players I hoped they enjoyed it as much as I did."
The Orioles had a 3-1 lead before the Twins bounced back to tie, with Puckett's grounder driving in their third run. Then, a fisted single by Hrbek off Mike Flanagan knocked in a go-ahead run and Al Newman's roller through the right side boosted the lead to 5-3.
) Twins-Orioles scoring Twins second: Davis homered to left-center on 1-1 count. Harper lined out to center fielder Devereaux. Munoz singled to center. Munoz stole second. Pagliarulo lined into double play, second baseman B.Ripken to shortstop C.Ripken.
1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Twins 1, Orioles 0.
Orioles third: Devereaux homered to left on 2-2 count. B.Ripken grounded out to shortstop Newman. C.Ripken homered to left on 0-0 count. Milligan singled to left. Gomez walked, Milligan to second. Melvin grounded out, second baseman Knoblauch to pitcher Anderson, Milligan to third, Gomez to second. Hoiles popped out to first baseman Hrbek.
2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Orioles 2, Twins 1.
Orioles fourth: Segui grounded out to third baseman Pagliarulo. Anderson singled to center. Devereaux safe on second baseman Knoblauch's fielding error, Anderson to third. B.Ripken hit sacrifice fly to left fielder Mack, Anderson scored. C.Ripken flied out to center fielder Puckett.
1 run, 1 hit, 1 error, 1 left on. Orioles 3, Twins 1.