The time machine that transported the Baltimore Orioles back to the world championship season of 1966 made an abrupt U-turn late yesterday afternoon and deposited the club in -- egad -- 1988.
The Orioles and their 44,742 fans were enjoying yesterday's Turn Back the Clock promotion -- enjoying it to the hilt, in fact, until Gregg Olson had the ugliest inning of his life and the Minnesota Twins came back to score an 8-4 victory in the deciding game of the three-game series.
Olson came on in the eighth to protect a one-run lead, but blew up in a five-run, ninth-inning performance that featured three wild pitches, four hits, two walks and an error. And things had been going so well.
Jeff Robinson had survived a three-run first inning to turn in a strong, 7 2/3 -inning start, and center fielder Mike Devereaux had made a spectacular, leaping catch to protect the 4-3 advantage in the eighth. Olson came on to get the last out of that inning, but bounced a series of curveballs in the ninth to hasten the first Memorial Stadium loss of his career.
"It was just one of those days," said Olson, who also blew a save opportunity in Minnesota on June 4. "I couldn't get the curveball where I wanted it. I haven't thrown that many wild pitches in a long time."
The ninth inning began with Olson turning his ankle slightly when he stepped in the hole where Robinson's left foot had been landing all afternoon, but he said that it had no effect on his performance. The results would indicate otherwise, but Olson never has been much for post-game excuses.
The Twins opened the ninth with three consecutive singles to tie the score and leave runners at first and second. Olson got Greg Gagne to strike out on a fouled bunt before the string of wild pitches and an error led to three additional runs.
The first errant curveball bounced off catcher Bob Melvin to move the two runners up. Olson walked pinch hitter Randy Bush intentionally to load the bases and then bounced another curveball, this one leading to two runs when Olson retrieved the ball and threw it past Melvin for an error. The final wild pitch brought home pinch runner Scott Leius.
Olson walked Shane Mack and gave up a run-scoring single to Kirby Puckett before manager John Oates got him out of there, but an otherwise festive afternoon had turned somber in record time.
"If you go out there enough times, things like that are going to happen," Oates said. "It wasn't a normal night for him, that's for sure, but he knows that he'll be back out there if the game is on the line tomorrow night."
There was a smattering of boos when Olson finally left the mound.
"I think everybody has come to expect Gregg to be perfect," Oates said. "The sad part was to hear those boos when he was coming off the mound. He does so well so often, but I guess it's just what you've done for us lately."
Twins starter Jack Morris said afterward that he could see that Olson's mechanics were affected by the chewed-up mound. He also said that he had persuaded manager Tom Kelly to leave him in the game to keep Twins stopper Rick Aguilera from facing the same difficulty.
Morris (9-5) went the distance and gave up six hits on the way to his sixth straight victory.
"It was a great team comeback," Morris said. "The guys came back in the ninth, and it was beautiful to see, as far as our team's concerned. We'll take them any way we can."
The first-place Twins have been taking a lot of them, that much is certain. The victory was their second in a row and their 17th in the past 18 games.
It looked as if this one would be easy after Chili Davis hit a three-run homer in the first inning to take over sole possession of the league lead in home runs with 16.
Robinson struggled with his control in the early innings, nearly touching off a brawl when he threw a pitch behind Mack in the first and then hit Puckett in the hip. He also hit a batter in the second inning before settling down to pitch a solid 7 2/3 innings.
The Orioles were looking for that kind of performance out of the starting rotation, though they could have done without another big deficit in the early innings. They have fallen behind by at least three runs in the early innings in seven of their past nine games.
This time, they battled back, scoring two runs in the second on Leo Gomez's third home run of the season and two more in the seventh on back-to-back RBI singles by David Segui and Ernie Whitt in the seventh.
But the only save was made by Devereaux, whose leaping grab in the eighth robbed Mack of a game-tying home run. Devereaux set a Wyoming state record when he high-jumped 6 feet, 10 inches in high school, and he needed all the lift he could get to pull the ball back into the park.
"It's disappointing when you got the game right there in your hand and you let it get away," Oates said. "But you've got to go out tomorrow, show up and try to improve."
Gregg Olson entered yesterday's game against the Twins with the Orioles leading, 4-3. Here's what happened to Olson in the ninth inning:
* Brian Harper singled to center. Dan Gladden ran for Harper.
* Gene Larkin, batting for Pedro Munoz, singled to right, sending Gladden to third.
* Mike Pagliarulo singled to right, scoring Gladden with Larkin holding at second. Chuck Knoblauch ran for Larkin.
* Greg Gagne struck out on a fouled bunt.
* With Randy Bush batting for Al Newman, Olson's wild pitch moved both runners up. Bush was walked intentionally.
* Olson threw a wild pitch that allowed Knoblauch to score the go-ahead run, with Pagliarulo scoring when Olson retrieved the ball and threw it wildly to the plate, off Bob Melvin's glove. Bush ended up at third. Scott Leius ran for Bush.
* With Shane Mack batting, Olson threw his third wild pitch of the inning, allowing Leius to score. Mack walked.
* Kirby Puckett singled to right, Mack scoring from first. Kevin Hickey replaced Olson.