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Oriole magic makes improbable journey downtown


They don't play the song "Orioles Magic" at the new ballpark.

Too much emotional baggage from the past, perhaps.

Those were Memorial Stadium days. These are Oriole Park at Camden Yards times, and everybody has to be there.

But the magic caught a ride downtown from Northeast Baltimore one more time last night as the Orioles, for the first time in almost seven years, come back from three runs down in the bottom of the ninth to notch an improbable 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Just as improbable was that Glenn Davis and Sam Horn, who appeared on a collision course for playing time, merged last night to spark the victory.

"This is the start of a beautiful thing," said Davis.

"That was fun," said Horn.

Davis' return to the lineup after six weeks on the disabled list is expected to cut into Horn's at-bats, just when Horn seems to be coming out of a slump.

But that hardly was of consequence last night, as Davis, Randy )) Milligan, David Segui and Horn all produced hits off Twins closer Rick Aguilera, which blended with some daring baserunning, two costly Minnesota fielding lapses and a wild pitch on a 1-2 count, got the Orioles a win. Only an equally improbable ninth-inning rally by Toronto to beat Seattle 8-7 kept the Orioles out of first place in the AL East.

"This was a great comeback," said outfielder Brady Anderson. "Not often do you do something like this to a team like that."

To understand the importance of the ninth inning, one must go back to the early stages of the game, where Minnesota starter Bill Krueger, who stilled the Orioles, 4-1, 10 days ago in Minneapolis, cut through the Baltimore order like Freddy Krueger.

"Krueger silenced us pretty good," Anderson said of the lefthander's seven-inning, seven-hit, one-run effort.

"He's pitched inside as well as any lefthander we've faced in the last two years," said manager Johnny Oates. "It was a struggle to get anybody on."

And on those occasions when the Orioles did get someone on, Krueger choked off the threat, stranding runners in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

By contrast, Rick Sutcliffe, who lost to Krueger in Minneapolis and had been nearly flawless at Camden Yards, looked especially flawed last night, constantly getting himself into jams in the first five innings, due in large part to his wildness (five walks and two wild pitches).

Despite facing the best hitting team in the majors, Sutcliffe was able to get out of trouble until the fifth, when the Twins broke through for four runs. Sutcliffe hit the showers and reliever Todd Frohwirth came in and shut the Twins down for 3 1/3 innings, just long enough for the Orioles to catch their breaths.

Which brings up the ninth inning, which was set up by the eighth.

Tim Hulett led off the eighth with a double, but was stranded by three straight grounders to short.

That is important, because if any other runner had gotten on, Oates would have pinch-hit Horn for Davis against either Carl Willis or Aguilera, both righthanders. Instead, Davis led off the ninth with a single.

"We don't get the man on and Glenn comes up in the ninth, battles, and everyone else that goes up there does his job," said Oates of the biggest ninth-inning miracle since the Orioles made up four runs on July 11, 1985, to overcome a 6-3 Chicago lead.

Davis, who had looked weak in his first three plate appearances, but who was 2-for-3 lifetime against Aguilera, got a bloop single to right. He was helped considerably by Jarvis Brown, a defensive replacement in right who broke back on the ball.

Milligan, who had a memorable two-run double last June 17 here to complete a comeback from a 5-3 deficit and snap a 15-game Minnesota winning streak, doubled again, moving Davis to third.

Next up was rightfielder David Segui, who like Horn, will see his minutes crunched with Davis' return. Segui (2-for-5 against Aguilera) singled to left, scoring Davis and making things interesting.

"The people who were sitting in the top started coming down to the good seats," said Horn.

Then, Oates started to do a little tinkering. He sent Mark McLemore in to run for Segui and brought Horn up to bat for Bill Ripken.

"He was up there to hit the ball into the seats," Oates said.

Instead, Horn got a broken-bat liner to center, scoring Milligan. On the play, three other significant things happened. McLemore took third. Leftfielder Shane Mack, who had a decent night himself (3-for-5), threw to third rather than second. And -- perhaps most importantly -- Horn took second.

"My teammates kid me about not taking the extra base, but when I saw the ball go to third, I thought I could make it," said Horn, who collected his first career triple Monday. "I was just hoping to get there safely and then have Johnny get someone out there for me."

Mission accomplished. Horn's gamble forced the Twins to intentionally walk Anderson. Then came the next significant moment. Oates, playing the percentages, benched Hulett, who had two hits in three trips, pinch hitting lefthanded-hitting Chito Martinez, who has two hits in 22 at-bats all year. Martinez, whose three previous RBI came on bases-loaded walks, came up again with the sacks full, and bounced to second.

Minnesota second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, whose throwing angle to the plate was apparently blocked by Aguilera, %o pump-faked to home but then threw to first, allowing McLemore to score the tying run.

The Twins then walked Cal Ripken, bringing Mike Devereaux to the plate, where a fly ball to the outfield wins the game.

Instead, Aguilera, who was ahead in the count one ball and two strikes, uncorked the Twins' fourth wild pitch and pinch-runner Joe Orsulak came across and greeted his delirious teammates with the winning run.

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