O's pass 12-inning road test Bats are silent, but walk, single, sac fly turn back Twins, 2-1; Lead over Yankees is 4 1/2 ; Key, bullpen stronger than rookie in debut


MINNEAPOLIS -- Obviously, the new-look Orioles offensive lineup did not want to draw any attention away from the terrific pitching exhibition that unfolded at the Metrodome last night.

The Orioles got a strong performance from left-hander Jimmy Key and a stronger performance from the bullpen on the way to a marathon 2-1, 12-inning victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Finally, in the 12th, B. J. Surhoff brought home Brady Anderson with a sacrifice fly to put the Orioles in front and prove that the offensive lineup had not left the ballpark three hours earlier to sample the menu at the Minneapolis Ribfest, which was going on just up the street.

Where's the beef? Indeed. The Orioles have split the first two games of this three-game series, and they haven't hit their way out of the plastic bag that serves as the right-field fence here in the House that Monsanto Built.

Anderson and third baseman Cal Ripken finally had to manufacture a scoring situation and Surhoff delivered so that everyone could go home.

Anderson drew a leadoff walk from Twins closer Rick Aguilera and Ripken followed with a perfect hit-and-run single to right to put runners at first and third with no one out. Surhoff lifted a deep fly ball to right and closer Randy Myers came on to record his 28th save.

"Cal's awesome on the hit and run," Anderson said. "He's as good as anybody in baseball. I can't remember the last time he swung and missed on a hit and run. I think it also helps that I'm a base stealer because I get a base stealer's jump."

The Orioles also took advantage of another dismal performance by Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu to gain ground on the second-place New York Yankees for the first time since July 14, increasing their American League East lead to 4 1/2 games.

They don't make a lot of games like this at the Metrodome, which used to be known as the Homerdome when the Twins had four or five batters in their lineup who could breach the tight fence dimensions almost at will. Other stadiums -- including Camden Yards -- have become better known for their vulnerability to the big swing, but it still is a rare game when neither team can put a crooked number on the scoreboard through 11 innings here.

The Twins had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when pinch hitter Matt Lawton greeted reliever Armando Benitez with a leadoff single and stole second on a third-strike pitch to Paul Molitor.

Anything through the infield would have brought home the decisive run -- and Aguilera was warming up in anticipation. But Benitez struck out cleanup hitter Terry Steinbach and Roberto Alomar stole a potential game-winning hit from third baseman Ron Coomer with a fine running catch in short right-center field.

Key still is waiting for the reconfigured Orioles lineup to make things easy on him. He got a few late-inning runs Monday night in Texas, but found himself locked in a tense pitching duel last night against a rookie pitcher named Shane Bowers.

Bowers, who turns 26 today, was making his major-league debut, but it wasn't apparent by the performance of the still-inconsistent Orioles offense.

Bowers, who started the season at the Double-A level, gave up just four singles through 5 2/3 innings. The only Orioles run during that span scoring on a pop-up by Mike Bordick that found an unpopu- lated spot in short left-center field.

Key was just as effective, though he allowed at least one hit in each of his seven innings and surrendered a long home run to veteran outfielder Roberto Kelly in the third. Key worked out of pTC several minor jams while he waited for the offensive assistance that every pitcher comes to expect in the cozy Metrodome.

Of course, Key had no reason to expect much of anything. The Orioles scored 10 runs for him in a July 3 start against the Detroit Tigers, but in his other six starts dating to June 18, the club had averaged just 1.5 runs per game.

"I threw good," Key said. "The goal is to win, not who gets the win. It's a good win for this team. It was tough. It's tough to go 12 innings to get it, but we won and that's the goal."

The Orioles finally put some real pressure on Bowers in the sixth inning when he handed a two-out walk to Rafael Palmeiro and gave up a sharp single to Anderson. Ripken fouled off four full-count pitches to draw a walk and load the bases, and Twins manager Tom Kelly decided to remove his young pitcher before something happened to take the luster off his impressive debut.

Kelly brought on reliever Mike Trombley, who got Surhoff to fly out to right field and end the inning.

Bowers would end up with a no-decision, but he had proven -- for one night at least -- that his strong performance at two minor-league levels was not a fluke. He was 7-2 with a 3.41 ERA at Double-A New Britain and 6-0 with a 4.54 ERA at Triple-A Salt Lake City before he was summoned to help fill the Twins' pitching gap.

No doubt, the Orioles were happy to see him go. The Twins rank 12th in the league in team ERA, so it figured to be just a matter of time before somebody gave it up. Key just had to keep battling, and he preserved the 1-1 tie into the eighth inning before giving way to Benitez.

He was the first of four relievers who combined to pitch five innings of scoreless relief. Orosco got the win.

The Orioles went nine innings without scoring, but the 12th-inning run was enough to wipe away the frustration of another thin offensive performance.

"When you win, you don't look at anything as frustrating," Anderson said. "You take your wins however you can get them."

Orioles today

Opponent: Minnesota Twins

Site: Metrodome, Minneapolis

Time: 2: 05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Scott Erickson (12-5, 3.95) vs. Twins' Rich Robertson (7-7, 5.11)

Hits and misses

On the field: The Orioles were shut down for 5 1/3 innings by the unknown Shane Bowers. They managed just four hits against a 26-year-old pitcher who started the season at the Double-A level and was making his major-league debut. The only run he gave up scored on a pop-up by Mike Bordick that fell untouched in short left-center field.

In the dugout: Twins manager Tom Kelly knew just when to pull Bowers, removing him with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning. Reliever Mike Trombley came on to get out of the jam and Bowers got an impressive no-decision.

In the clubhouse: Manager Davey Johnson said before the game that the Orioles would call up a pitcher from the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings' roster tomorrow, unless the club makes a trade for a veteran starting pitcher before then.

Pub Date: 7/27/97

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