When Orioles manager Johnny Oates trotted out another new lineup last night, it wasn't necessarily reason to be optimistic.
It was the 31st different batting order Oates had presented in the first 41 games of the season -- and only four of them has he used more than once.
There were some positive offensive developments early in the game, but only those with good memories could recall the details by the time the night was over. And only a few thousand from the original crowd of 46,177 were still left at Camden Yards when Harold Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly in the 14th inning to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
The game took five hours and thirty-four minutes to complete, the second longest in terms of elapsed time in Orioles' history.
Mark Williamson (2-1), the sixth pitcher used by the Orioles and one of 13 to appear in the game, allowed two hits over the last three innings to get the win. Carlos Maldinado (1-1), the last of seven Milwaukee pitchers, was charged with the loss.
Home runs by Leo Gomez and Cal Ripken off Milwaukee starter Ricky Bones provided an early lead, but the Orioles had eight scoreless innings before registering their first extra-inning win of the year after four losses.
Chris Hoiles started the winning rally with a double into the left-field corner. David Segui was walked intentionally and Maldinado then dug himself a deeper hole by walking Tim Hulett to load the bases.
The Orioles had failed to capitalize on a similar opportunity an inning earlier, but this time Reynolds lofted a high fly to right field that enabled Hoiles to easily score the winning run.
For the first time in the 18 games he has been with the Orioles, Damon Buford was not the starting center fielder. His spot in the lineup went to Mark Leonard, who played left field with Brady Anderson moving over to center field.
Other changes involved placement in the batting order. Ripken returned to his customary No. 3 spot, Sherman Obando was inserted as the fourth-place hitter, Mark McLemore moving from third to second and Reynolds returning to the ninth slot he occupied earlier in the season.
"I'm just trying to find a way to put some runs on the board," Oates said as explanation for the latest moves. "We're just trying to see who can give us a chance to score."
By the fifth inning the Orioles had a pair of home runs for the second straight game and a four-run lead, which no doubt came as a shock to many, especially Ben McDonald. The big right-hander had been on the low side of shutouts in his last two appearances and three times overall in his previous eight starts.
Through the early innings it appeared that McDonald might breeze to his third victory of the year. He was unhittable through four innings and unscored on after five -- but he was gone by the sixth, when his own misplay chased him from the game.
After going out rapidly in the first inning, the Orioles squandered their first scoring opportunity in the second, when Obando and Gomez singled and Hoiles walked to load the bases with nobody out. However, Leonard fouled out, Glenn Davis struck out, Reynolds flied out and the crowd got restless.
An inning later, after lining a single to center field, an overanxious McLemore was picked off base for the third time in the last three games.
A home run by Gomez, his seventh of the season, ignited a three-run outburst in the fourth, when Davis and Anderson delivered run-scoring singles. An inning later Ripken made it 4-0 when he lined his third home run of the year and first since April 28 just inside the left-field foul pole.
At that point McDonald appeared to have control of the game, but his grip didn't last long. In the sixth, Darryl Hamilton singled, Bill Spiers doubled and Greg Vaughn walked to load the bases with one out.
Kevin Reimer bounced a two-run single through the middle before McDonald hastened his departure by committing only the second error of his career. It came on a potential double-play bouncer by Robin Yount that McDonald kicked to the vacated area between first and second.
That brought left-hander Jim Poole into the game, and after getting ahead in the count 0-and-2, he walked B.J. Surhoff to reload the bases. Todd Frohwirth came into the game and struck out John Jaha and got Pat Listach on a routine fly to left.
A pair of pop-fly singles, by Hamilton and Spiers, set up the tying run for the Brewers in the seventh inning, when Frohwirth walked Yount with the bases loaded after issuing an intentional walk to Reimer.
The Orioles almost won it in the 10th, but Yount's diving catch in left-center field robbed Davis of a potentially game-winning hit.
Three innings later both teams missed a chance to break the deadlock. Listach led off the 13th with a high bouncer over the head of Segui at first base. However, the Milwaukee shortstop slid past third base trying for a triple and was out when Hulett applied the tag after a good throw from McLemore.
The Orioles had an even better opportunity in the bottom half of the inning, which Hulett started with a single to right-center field. After a sacrifice bunt by Hoiles and an intentional walk to Anderson, McLemore lined a single to left field.
Hulett had to delay just long enough to make sure the ball would drop safely and was held at third base. With the bases loaded, Ripken's grounder to third was turned into a force play at the plate and Obando struck out for the third straight time to end the inning.