DETROIT -- This one was almost as untidy as it was fluky.
The Baltimore Orioles let one get away in extra innings yesterday despite:
* Another brilliant effort by starter Mike Mussina, who dueled potential 20-game winner Bill Gullickson pitch for pitch through eight innings.
* Two clutch, two-out RBI by Cal Ripken, who equaled his career high of 110 and raised his total for the first two games of this series to seven.
* Two runs in the 10th inning against Gullickson and Detroit Tigers closer Mike Henneman.
* And a freakish play in the bottom of the 10th, when Skeeter Barnes was hit by Tony Phillips' batted ball and was out on an interference call, the second straight game in which Phillips has been the perpetrator of that play.
In the end, one strike away from victory, Gregg Olson blew a save opportunity for the eighth time this season when Lou Whitaker slashed a three-run double to left-center field for a 5-4 decision that kept the Tigers mathematically alive in the American League East title race.
The Orioles appeared to catch the break they needed to thwart Detroit's momentum when Phillips' shot hit Barnes and prevented Travis Fryman (at third) and Milt Cuyler (at second) from advancing.
It left the bases loaded with two out after a play that "doesn't happen a whole lot," said manager John Oates.
Whitaker worked the count to 1-2, taking a third pitch that was very close, before lining a shot into the gap that gave the Tigers their 11th victory in 15 extra-inning games.
Had the ball not hit Barnes, could the Orioles have turned it into an inning-ending double play?
Probably not, said David Segui, who had just entered the game for defensive purposes.
"I thought I was on it," said Segui, who would have had to dive for the ball. "I don't think it would have been a double play, but I could have gotten an out at first. It might have changed the complexion of the inning."
Tigers manager Sparky Anderson said: "He had no chance. He was diving for his health."
If Segui had made the out, a run would have scored to leave the Orioles ahead by 4-3 with two out. Then Oates could have walked Whitaker intentionally and taken his chances with Lloyd Moseby with the bases loaded.
As it was, the Tigers rescued Gullickson from a potential 10th defeat after his first attempt to become the majors' first 20-game winner.
Gullickson had been the victim of Mike Devereaux's run-scoring single in the top of the 10th that gave the Orioles the lead before Henneman arrived and permitted Ripken's run-scoring double.
"I found out why he's a good pitcher," said Anderson. "He's not worried about losing."
"I've lost a lot," he said. "I didn't get 20, but the team won. I've always tried to emphasize the team."
Gullickson had a load with Mussina, who was ahead or even with him until ex-Oriole Mickey Tettleton slammed his 29th homer into the third tier of the right-field bleachers with one out in the seventh.
"It was cut fastball that didn't get backed up," said Mussina. "It stayed right down the middle, and he hit it all the way to Toledo."
But the Orioles prolonged the game with a tying run in the eighth on a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Dwight Evans, Devereaux's sacrifice and Ripken's two-out single to center that scored pinch runner Juan Bell.
Ripken is 8-for-17 in his past four games, with two hits in each game, plus nine RBI, in a season that overall, may even surpass his Most Valuable Player year, 1983.
Mike Flanagan worked the Orioles out of a jam in the ninth by getting Tettleton to roll into a double play and was on the mound at the start of the 10th.
But, when Alan Trammell was announced as a pinch hitter for Dave Bergman, Oates went to Olson, who had saved Friday night's 9-7 triumph.
Olson retired Trammell on a grounder before walking Fryman to fTC begin his demise. Everyone else he faced hit the ball sharply.