The Minnesota Twins used healthy doses of patience and persistence in taking the second of four games with the Orioles, 6-4 Tuesday night. The Twins drew six walks, and scored five unanswered runs after falling behind 4-1, to seal the win.
The Orioles got off to a good start. Newly anointed leadoff man Nick Markakis continued to excel in his new role, starting things with a base hit. He moved to third on an errand pickoff attempt by Twins starter Samuel Deduno, and scored one out later on Deduno’s wild pitch.
Zach Britton took the hill for the first time this year, having battled back from shoulder issues. But he, like most of the young Orioles starters this year, looked anything but ready. He allowed at least two base runners in each of his four-plus innings, but went unscored upon until the fourth, Britton walked Trevor Ploffeto start the inning. Two outs later, light-hitting Jamey Carroll grounded a double down the left field line, scoring Plouffe, and tying things at one.
For the Orioles, only one swing produced any runs Tuesday, and that swing came in the fifth. Markakis walked, as did Jim Thome one out later. Adam Jones stepped in, and deposited Deduno’s first pitch, a 91-MPH fastball away, into the right field seats, giving the birds a 4-1 lead.
Britton would need just three outs after that to be in good shape for a win in his first start of the year. Facing the heart of the Twins lineup, he couldn’t even get one of the three. Britton walked Joe Mauer. Josh Willingham singled, and Britton walked Justin Morneau. Manager Buck Showalter had seen enough and pulled Britton, still holding on to a 4-1 lead, but having allowed six hits and six walks in four innings, plus three batters. Luis Ayala came on, and one out and two hits later—in a span of six pitches—the game was tied up at four.
The Orioles would have their chances over the next couple of innings: two-on and two-out in the sixth, and Jim Thome struck out; Mark Reynolds hit into a double play to end the seventh.
Into the Twins’ seventh, and Ayala was cruising right along. He retired the first two batters he faced, then gave up back-to-back hits to Carroll and Denard Span. Ayala (L, 2-3) was replaced by Pedro Strop, trying for just one more out to retire the side.
Strop threw four consecutive fastballs to Ben Revere, clocked at 96, 98, 99, and 99-MPH. Revere caught up with none of them, fouling two off, and taking two out of the strike zone. Strop inexplicably threw his fifth pitch, an 86-MPH slider, right down the heart of the plate, speeding Revere’s bat up, and allowing the Twins right fielder to line a base hit to right, scoring Carroll, for a 5-4 Twins lead. Mauer then punched a 98-MPH fastball to left for a base hit, plating Span for a 6-4 Twins lead.
The birds would have another shot, this time in the ninth. Twins closer Matt Capps is on the disabled list, so Minnesota has been going with a lefty/righty combo to close. Lefthander Glen Perkins, who’d come on and struck out the side in the eighth, began the ninth, and gave up a first-pitch single to the red-hot Markakis. Manager Ron Gardenhire made the move for the righthander Jared Burton, who got JJ Hardy to hit into a double play. Burton walked Thome, bringing the would-be tying run to the plate for the second time in the inning. But Burton struk Adam Jones out swinging at a nasty sinker to end the game.
The same two teams are back at it at Target Field Wednesday at 8:10. Tommy Hunter (3-4, 6.11) starts for the Orioles (which means another at least one more roster move will be coming before Wednesday’s game), vs. Francisco Liriano (3-8, 4.93) for Minnesota.
- Nick Markakis has returned from wrist surgery, he wasn’t on the field at all in June, he’s hitting in a spot in the order he’d never hit in prior to the All-Star break, and the guy behind him in the batting order is hitting .217. Yet Markakis is 10-for-23 since returning, with 5 runs scored. Tuesday, he went 3-for-4 with a walk. He scored two of the Orioles’ four runs.
- Yes, it has been a long road back for Britton, but 4 runs on 6 hits and 6 walks in 4 innings is just plain bad. For a while now, Orioles fans have muttered the familiar words: “If all the young pitchers can get it together…” Generally, when O’s fans say or hear the phrase, “all the young pitchers”, the list of names that are summarized by the word “all”, are Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman, and Britton. Well, maybe it’s time to stop wondering if “all” the young pitchers will get it together, and start wondering if “any of” the young pitchers will get it together. Speaking of young pitchers getting it together, Tommy Hunter could sure use a good game Wednesday. As can the Orioles.
- Pedro Strop’s hanging , 2-2 slider to Ben Revere in the seventh was a great example of a pitcher trying to be too cute. Revere wasn’t catching up to the heater, so the last thing a pitcher wants to do is speed up his bat. Maybe that was supposed to be down and in, buried a bit? Either way, you hate to lose the game thanks to that pitch. If you’re going to lose, make the other guy beat your best stuff. That clearly wasn’t what happened in the decisive Revere at-bat.
- A key stat from this one: Inherited Runners. Luis Ayala inherited 3 runners. They all scored. Pedro Strop inherited 2. They both scored. The Twins bullpen inherited 3 runners. None of them scored. The Orioles have relied on this bullpen so much, it is beginning to show wear. If there is an “On/Off” switch for the other elements of this team’s game (offense, starting pitching, defense), now would be the time to find it.