MINNEAPOLIS -- The Orioles arrived at the Metrodome yesterday and soon were reminded why they went for something a little more traditional when they were picking out a new stadium.
Baseball under the Big Top has never been their cup of tea, which is just one of the reasons why Oriole Park at Camden Yards was not built with an inflatable roof. The Orioles aren't much for artificial turf or shower curtain fences either.
The Minnesota Twins have no such reservations. They love their little toy stadium and they have parlayed a decided home-field advantage into two World Series Championships during the past five seasons. There is no place like the dome, and they proved it again last night with a 4-1 victory over the Orioles.
Left-hander Bill Krueger, who has turned a minor-league contract into a major-career turnaround, gave up two hits over eight innings to record his fourth victory of the year. Stopper Rick Aguilera came on with a runner on base in the ninth to get the last three outs and record his fifth save.
Orioles' starter Rick Sutcliffe was less fortunate. He came in with a two-game winning streak and a string of 18 innings in which he had given up only one run on 10 hits, but gave up 10 hits over 7 2/3 innings on the way to his second loss in five decisions.
"The club needed a better performance out of me tonight, and I just didn't get it done," said Sutcliffe, who gave up all four runs on two-out hits. "When we get Randy Milligan back, I feel like our lineup can match up against anybody's. Without him, somebody has to pick up the slack, and that was supposed to be me tonight."
The Metrodome hasn't exactly been a fiberglass funhouse for the Orioles, who entered last night's game with just six victories in their last 28 games in baseball's tribute to Teflon. Sutcliffe hadn't pitched here since he left the Cleveland Indians in 1984, but he didn't have to wait long for a refresher course in the finer points of domeball.
He had no one to blame but himself for the leadoff walk that led to Kent Hrbek's run-scoring single in the first inning, but the second Twins run had carpet marks all over it.
Right fielder Pedro Munoz poked a ground-ball double down the right-field line that would have been a routine play for first baseman David Segui on natural turf. Munoz moved over on a bouncer to first and scored when Shane Mack beat out a chopper to shortstop.
"We played on the same field," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said, "but I think it's easier for a team that plays in an Astroturf stadium to adjust to grass than the other way around. That's just an opinion. I don't think it was that big a deal tonight. They just got four two-out hits, and that's the story."
The Orioles took advantage of the dome's odd configuration when Mike Devereaux sliced a fly ball into the retracted seats above right field for his fourth home run of the year in the top of the second.
Sutcliffe was coming off a strong performance on Wednesday night in Kansas City, where he gave up six hits on the way to his third complete-game victory. But he had yet to deliver a solid performance against a contending club.
He overpowered the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Royals -- the three teams with the worst records in the league -- but he was battered by the first- place Toronto Blue Jays in his second start and gave up runs in the first three innings against the Twins last night.
This time, Sutcliffe was not hit particularly hard, but he paid for his inability to keep the leadoff hitter off base in the early innings. Shane Mack drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the first and scored on the two-out single by Hrbek. Munoz poked the double down the right-field line in the second and scored on the two-out infield single by Mack. Chuck Knoblauch opened the third with a grounder through the middle and scored on a two-out single by Brian Harper. There definitely was a pattern forming.
"Three straight times," Sutcliffe said. "Guys in high school know the percentages when the leadoff hitter gets on. I walked the first guy. The next couple were ground balls, but I just struggled. I'm not going to give up 10 hits very often.
"All of their runs came with two outs. That's the toughest thing. You're within on pitch of getting out of the inning. We just needed a better performance out of me tonight."
He finally broke the mold in the fourth, when he gave up a leadoff single to Munoz, but worked out of trouble.
Krueger has been the surprise pitcher of the American League. The Twins signed him to a minor-league contract in late January, but he won a job in the major-league rotation and has won every game he has started this year.
He came into last night's start with a 3-0 record and an 0.75 ERA, which isn't bad for a pitcher who began the season with a 47-49 career record and a 4.19 lifetime ERA. He is pitching so well that one run over eight innings actually raised his ERA, to 0.84.
"I'm surprised that I've been this successful," said Krueger, who was 11-8 last year with the Seattle Mariners. "You've got to have a lot of things happen to win four games in a row. I think this is a good thing in that I've established something. I've come in and thrown strikes, and the team is confident that I'm going to do that. I see no reason why I can't keep doing that."