Twins rally for 5 in eighth inning, down O's, 12-9

April 29, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- They hit four homers. They scored nine runs. They built leads of up to six runs.

Didn't matter. The Orioles still lost, 12-9, to the Twins last night. Yes, the bullpen just may be a concern.

"It's a tough game to lose," said reliever Alan Mills, who allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings. "We had every opportunity to win it. It just didn't happen."

Lefty Jesse Orosco said, "We're not looking to good out of the bullpen right now."

No. New manager Phil Regan tried Mills. He tried Armando Benitez and Orosco, Jamie Moyer and Doug Jones. He tried everybody, and everybody contributed in their own small way -- or big way -- to the defeat. Three games and three losses into the season, the bullpen has a cumulative ERA of 13.50.

The Orioles led 6-0 in the third inning, on homers by Cal Ripken, Andy Van Slyke and Matt Nokes. The Twins came back and tied the score at 6-all, and again, the Orioles established the lead, when Rafael Palmeiro hit a three-run homer in the top of the seventh.

But Jerald Clark hit a bases-empty homer in the bottom of the seventh. The bottom of the eighth was the worst possible nightmare for the Orioles -- a combination of seeing-eye hits and inept relief.

"A lot of the hits that they got would've been been sucked up by the grass," said Van Slyke. "They out-bleeded us, and we out-homered them. You usually don't lose ballgames when that happens."

XTC Regan said, "I don't know how many broken-bat hits they had, and bloopers they had, but they did and we didn't and that's baseball."

Mills was on the mound when the eighth started, but before the inning ended, Regan used had used a total of four relievers, who gave up five runs.

Mills allowed a single to Matt Walbeck, a walk to Chuck Knoblauch.

On to Benitez, who struck out Scott Leius and got two quick

strikes on Kirby Puckett. However, Puckett fought off an inside fastball, his bat shattering, and bounced a chopper to third ever so slowly.

Ever so slowly, the ball skipped past the glove of third baseman Leo Gomez, past shortstop Ripken. Killing them softly. One run scored.

Benitez out, Orosco in. Matt Merullo singled, tying the game at night.

Exit Orosco, enter Jones. Marty Cordova singled, and the Twins led for the first time, 10-9. They would add two more runs.

Ripken, who lamented his two errors after Thursday night's loss, jump-started the Orioles with a homer leading off the second inning, pulling a ball into the left-field seats off Twins starter Pat Mahomes.

It was just the start.

Two batters later, Van Slyke crushed a high fastball over the right-field baggy, hitting the ball so hard that even before the ball had cleared the fence, Van Slyke had already broken into his home run trot. Van Slyke hit six homers all of last year, and he now has two in the Orioles' first three games.

If Mahomes was staggered in the second, he was KO'd in the third. Brady Anderson, hitless in his first 10 at-bats of the season, drove a double into the right-center-field alley. Right fielder Kevin Bass grounded to first, allowing Anderson to move to third.

Palmeiro walked, and Ripken grounded out to third, scoring Anderson and advancing Palmeiro to second.

Harold Baines singled, and Palmeiro scored, giving the Orioles a 4-0 lead. Nokes then finished off Mahomes by powering a monstrous homer to right, the ball reaching the sky boxes that sit high over the field.

The Orioles would need the six-run cushion, because the Twins proceeded to pummel left-hander Sid Fernandez and his bullpen friends.

Jeff Reboulet, leading off the Twins' third. Home run.

Next in line, right fielder Puckett. Home run. Fernandez pulled off his cap and wiped his brow in disgust.

David McCarty started the Twins' fifth inning with a single. Pat Meares, ditto. Orioles reliever Mike Oquist began throwing in the bullpen.

Twins catcher Walbeck, who batted just .204 last year, then hammered a drive to the deepest part of the park in center. Van Slyke sprinted back, and just as he reached the warning track, lowered his glove to his waist to make a running basket catch. Walbeck was out, but Regan was convinced that Fernandez was finished.

Enter Oquist, who is, basically, the 12th pitcher on a 12-man pitching staff. But the Orioles needed him to come through in a big way.

The three relievers who Regan likes to use in games the Orioles have a chance to win -- Benitez, Brad Pennington and Mills -- had each pitched in the Orioles' first two games of the season. Regan preferred to hold them out of action last night, giving them a chance to recuperate.

But with Fernandez lasting only 3 1/3 innings, Regan desperately needed help from the bullpen, somebody to step up and give the Orioles quality innings.

Oquist did the job for 2 1/3 innings. He got the final two outs of the fourth inning, then retired the Twins in order in the fifth. Clark struck out and McCarty popped out to start the sixth.

However, his luck and that of the Orioles turned in a big way.

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