Orioles stockpile runs, beat Twins to punch, 13-7

April 30, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Orioles found the solution last night to a bullpen problem that was costing them a run and a half per inning.

They scored about a run and a half per inning.

By the time Orioles starter Kevin Brown yielded to the relievers in the seventh inning -- probably with some trepidation, based on what he had seen in the first three games -- the Orioles' hitters had hammered Minnesota.

Nevertheless, the Orioles' relievers provided their daily dose of fear, turning a one-sided rout into something less than that. Final score: Orioles 13, Twins 7.

The Orioles embraced their gray-top hats, which they had eschewed just four days earlier, as lucky charms. Did it help? Ask shortstop Cal Ripken, who had two hits and three RBIs. Or Brady Anderson: two triples and four runs scored. Or Harold Baines, who hit a three-run homer. Maybe Andy Van Slyke, who hit a two-run single and now has five RBIs this season.

With their first win, the Orioles know for sure that they won't go without a victory this year. Phil Regan, who had kidded during the replacement spring that he could be the first manager in history to go 0-162, knows for sure that this won't really happen.

"I was thinking about that 0-22 start," said Regan; he was referring to the 0-21 start in 1988. "I didn't want that to happen.

Anderson said, "It felt good to get a win. We needed that."

Regan said, "I didn't want to go 0-5 to start the year. I think it's important for us to win games, because you look up [at the scoreboard]" -- News flash: scoreboard watching in April -- "and the Yankees are looking like they're going to win games, and so is Toronto."

Just as important, however, is that the Orioles' bullpen got some badly needed rest. It wasn't a night off, but at least some of them finally got a chance to leave their ERA's intact for an evening.

Armando Benitez, who had pitched in each of the first three games, kicked back on the bench in the bullpen, his arms folded across his chest. Jamie Moyer never got up on the bullpen.

They could thank Kevin Brown for the respite. The right-hander, signed as a free agent to a one-year, $4.225 million contract, was charged with five runs in his 6 1/3 innings, but pitched much better than those numbers would indicate.

"That's a big lift for us," said Regan.

Throwing a darting sinker, Brown retired the Twins in order in five of the first six innings and struck out six. He lasted one out into the seventh inning, the longest outing of the year by any Orioles starter.

Brown had said that he really wanted to play for the Orioles, with their powerful lineup and steady defense, and they justified his faith. The Orioles played flawlessly in the field, and they blasted Twins right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, making his major-league debut.

The Orioles scored three runs in the second inning and knocked out Hawkins, whose final line was 1 2/3 innings, seven hits, seven runs, one homer and one hit batter.

The Orioles added two runs in the fourth, three in the fifth and one in the seventh. Plenty for Brown. Plenty for the bullpen.

The Orioles bullpen began working after the sixth inning, Alan Mills from the right side and Brad Pennington from the left, but Brown started the seventh inning anyway. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Maybe Regan was just trying to keep the ball out of the hands of the bullpen for as long as possible.

Pedro Munoz doubled to start the inning, and after Matt Merullo grounded out, Marty Cordova tripled into the right-field corner, scoring Munoz. Brown was done.

Regan called for Mills, who was pitching in his fourth game in four days. Mills walked Leius, allowed a two-run double and suddenly this was beginning to look suspiciously like the Orioles' 12-9 loss on Friday night, when they blew a 6-0 lead.

Mike Oquist replaced Mills, and Alex Cole singled home the Twins' seventh run. There was still only one out, and you couldn't have blamed Regan if he had been caught pouring over the lists of released replacement pitchers.

But Oquist, who pitched effectively for two innings on Friday, settled down, retiring Kirby Puckett on a pop-out and Kevin Maas on a grounder. He shut out the Twins, in the eighth as well, and the Orioles survived.

ORIOLES TODAY

Opponent: Minnesota Twins

Site: Metrodome, Minneapolis

Time: 2 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Arthur Rhodes (3-5, 5.81 in 1994) vs. Twins' Scott Erickson (8-11, 5.44 in 1994).

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