They have played seven times this season, and every game but one has been competitive until the final at-bat.
The Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins have made a specialty out of battles between the bullpens, and last night was no exception.
In the fifth one-run game between a club turning to youth and a club turning on a drive toward postseason play, the Orioles outlasted the Twins, 5-4, on a game-winning, ninth-inning single by David Segui.
The hit off Terry Leach knocked in pinch runner Juan Bell from second base and lifted the Orioles to their sixth straight victory at Memorial Stadium and third in a row overall.
It was a big triumph for a team looking for an identity against a team with the best record in the major leagues, but the Orioles were just grateful for the outcome.
"It feels good to beat anybody. It doesn't matter if it's Minnesota or Cleveland," said Segui.
"I don't think we're playing the spoiler's role," added Dwight Evans, who belted a three-run homer against Twins starter Allan Anderson. "We're just trying to win some ball games, period, get some confidence."
After Ben McDonald survived one rocky inning to take the Orioles into the ninth in a tie game, Gregg Olson held the hard-hitting Twins at bay.
He struck out the dangerous Randy Bush, who had tied an American League record with seven straight pinch hits, to highlight the inning and set it up for Segui, who had only five hits in his previous 35 at-bats.
"It just happened," said Segui. "It's good to help the team win."
Manager John Oates said he had no thoughts of pinch-hitting for Segui, although he had Joe Orsulak and Chito Martinez available on his bench.
McDonald didn't pitch badly, but the Twins unleashed a three-run third inning after he had retired the first two hitters.
A lazy fly ball by Kent Hrbek down the left-field line with the Orioles shifted the other direction did the major damage. It dropped for a two-run double and temporarily gave the Twins the lead.
But in the seventh and eighth, McDonald regained his velocity, ++ struck out three of eight hitters and left one of his better post-All-Star efforts.
"I got a little tired, and so I relaxed later," he said. "One inning seems like it's been the problem in a lot of my starts, but I felt like I threw a pretty good game."
The Orioles countered the three-run inning with a three-run homer by Evans, who made a rare start with left-hander Anderson pitching.
"It might be four or five days before we face another one," said Oates.
The shot over the center-field fence scored Glenn Davis, who had doubled, and Randy Milligan, who had walked, and pushed the Orioles ahead, 4-3.
VTC "I knew I hit it well. But I've hit some balls like that before and they didn't go anywhere," said Evans of his 384th lifetime homer.
The Twins tied the game in the fifth on a run-scoring double by Kirby Puckett, a drive to center field that fooled Mike Devereaux, who fell down.
But McDonald got stronger en route to a 122-pitch outing in his first start against the Twins.
"I could have gone back out there," he said. "But I had thrown a lot of pitches, and other starters tell me that their stuff is not as good in the following game if they throw too many."
"Ben just had that one inning when he got the first two out and then fell behind the next guy," Oates said. "We've seen that over and over and over again. He straightened himself out."
And the Orioles went on to beat Minnesota for only the second time this season. Their other victory in the series broke the Twins' 15-game winning streak.
It was not a victory to play down. Minnesota is 44-21 against the AL East, has the best road record in baseball and is 54-26 since May 28.
"We played good," said Twins manager Tom Kelly. "The Orioles played just a little bit better. They deserved to win. We swung the bat pretty good. We just didn't get enough hits when we needed them."
Orioles second: Davis grounded out to pitcher Anderson. Milligan walked. Evans singled to right center, Milligan to third. Gomez hit sacrifice fly to right fielder Larkin, Milligan scored. Hoiles singled to left, Evans to second. B.Ripken struck out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Orioles 1, Twins 0.
Twins third: Pagliarulo flied out to left fielder Segui. Ortiz lined out to right fielder Evans. Gladden singled to right center. Knoblauch walked, Gladden to second. Puckett singled to left, Gladden scored, Knoblauch to second. Hrbek doubled down the left field line, Knoblauch and Puckett scored. Davis intentionally walked. Larkin struck out. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Twins 3, Orioles 1.
Orioles fourth: Davis doubled to left center. Milligan walked. Evans homered to center on 0-0 count, Davis, Milligan and Evans scored. Gomez flied out to left fielder Gladden. Hoiles grounded out to shortstop Leius. B.Ripken struck out. 3 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Orioles 4, Twins 3.
Twins fifth: Knoblauch singled to center. Puckett doubled to center, Knoblauch scored. Hrbek lined out to pitcher McDonald. Puckett caught stealing, catcher Hoiles to third baseman Gomez. Davis walked. Larkin flied out to left fielder Segui. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Twins 4, Orioles 4.
Orioles ninth: Harper catching, batting 1st. Mack to left field, batting 7th. Gagne to shortstop, batting 9th. Hoiles walked. Bell ran for Hoiles. Leach relieved Willis. B.Ripken sacrificed, third baseman Pagliarulo to second baseman Knoblauch, Bell to second. Devereaux struck out. Segui singled to left center, Bell scored. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 5, Twins 4.