Orioles Salvage Split in Minnesota, Head to Cleveland
After dropping 2-of-3 against the surging Detroit Tigers (49-44) this past weekend and the first two games of their series in Minnesota following the All-Star break, the Baltimore Orioles (48-44) rebounded by winning the final two games and earned a split as they try to keep pace in the tough AL East.
Following two strong outings by Tommy Hunter (4-4, 5.71 ERA) and Wei-Yin Chen (8-5, 3.80 ERA), the Birds were able to improve their post-All-Star record to 3-4 as they head to Cleveland (47-45) to square off against the 3 rd place Indians, who took 3-of-4 earlier this season at Camden Yards.
If you missed the Twins (38-54) series, well, there’s a lot to talk about.
Game one was a complete blowout in favor of the Twins. They pounded out 20 base hits and posted a season-high 19 runs as they routed the Birds 19-7 beating them for the first time this year.
Chris Tillman (1-1, 1.00 ERA), who tossed an impressive 8.1 scoreless innings against the Mariners (0 earned runs) in his season debut before the mid-Summer classic, was plagued Monday night by the Birds defense.
He lasted just 0.2 of an inning and allowed seven runs on five base hits, two walks and one strikeout. However, only one of those seven runs was earned after an untimely error by first baseman Mark Reynolds.
Regardless of the 1st inning, the Twins arrived with their hitting shoes on. Ben Revere went 4-for-6, including a double and three RBI. Denard Span went 3-for-5, including a pair of doubles, five RBIs, two runs scored and a walk and Joe Mauer added his sixth home run of the year.
For the Birds, Reynolds redeemed himself a bit by jacking his eighth home run of the year, a three-run shot, and Endy Chavez added a pinch-hit 2-run home run, his second of the year, in the Orioles loss.
The Birds pen, which had been leading the majors in ERA and wins for most of the season, was rocked on Monday night. Now, they sit at 5th in the majors, 3rd in the AL, with a 3.08 ERA and 18 wins on the year.
Jim Johnson, who leads the AL with 28 saves, saw his ERA skyrocket from 1.41 to 2.56 after he lasted just 0.1 of an inning and surrendered five earned runs on four base hits. Darren O’Day allowed three earned runs over his inning of work and newcomer Miguel Socolovich allowed three earned runs over 2.1 innings, and was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.
Game two, although it was not a blow out like the first game, was even harder for the Orioles to swallow.
Zach Britton (0-0, 9.00 ERA) returned to the hill for the Birds and he looked very strong over the first three innings of work. The offense staked him to a 4-1 lead, following a three-run home run off the bat of Adam Jones in the 4 th inning, his 21 st of the year.
However, the southpaw was unable to protect the lead as he allowed three earned runs in the bottom half of the frame. Due to his recent recall and rehab in the minors, Showalter lifted Britton after four innings with the game tied at four runs apiece.
Luis Ayala (2-3, 2.58 ERA) entered the game and was cruising until the 7th inning. He allowed four singles and an errant throw by J.J. Hardy led to two earned runs as the Twins came back for the third time in the game to take a 6-4 lead, which proved to be the game winning runs.
Game three was the turning point in the series for the Birds. Recently recalled Hunter needed a strong outing to re-establish himself as a starting pitcher at the major league level. Well, he accomplished that goal.
He tossed 7.1 impressive innings, allowed just one earned run on six base hits, struck out one and failed to walk a batter as he picked up his 4th win of the year.
Jones launched a 2-run home run in the 1st inning, his second in as many days, and his 22nd on the year. After a couple of tough days out of the pen, they held on in game three as Troy Patton finished the 8th inning for Hunter and Johnson pitched a scoreless 9th inning for his 27th save of the year.
The Birds definitely needed a strong pitching performance from their starter, mainly to aid their taxed pen, and that’s what they got.
With Jason Hammel out for about a month or so after he underwent knee surgery, there’s an open spot for Hunter to shine in the rotation.
The final game of the series was another exciting, nail-biting game for the Orioles as they scored three unanswered runs over the last three innings of the game and came back to win 4-3.
Chen started the game for the Birds and tossed seven innings, surrendered three earned runs on six base hits, one walk and five strike outs as he picked up his 8th victory of the year.
Chris Davis smashed his 15th home run of the year in the 2nd inning, getting the Birds on the board. Nick Markakis delivered an RBI base hit in the 7th as they inched closer, 3-2. And, Reynolds blooped a 2-run go-ahead single in the 8 th inning as they took a 4-3 lead.
However, O’Day and Patton made things interesting in the bottom half as each failed to retire the batters they were brought into face. Pedro Strop entered the game with two runners on and no outs, but escaped unscathed.
Johnson pitched a perfect 9th inning for his 28th save of the year.
So, after a couple of tough losses to open the series, the Birds were able to salvage the remaining two games and they won the season series 5-2 over the Twins.
Tonight, the Birds head to Cleveland to square off against the always-tough Indians as they open a four-game series. For some reason, no matter how well the Indians are playing whether in last place or 1st place, Baltimore seems to struggle.
Jim Thome will make his return to Cleveland for the first time in an Oriole uniform.
The Birds will send Miguel Gonzalez (1-1, 2.59 ERA), who has been a surprise bright spot on the roster. So far, he has made two starts and three relief appearances since being recalled from AAA Norfolk and is working towards earning a starting spot in the rotation since it’s still wide open.
Gonzalez has allowed seven earned runs on the year in 24.1 innings on 19 base hits. He tossed 4.1 innings and surrendered just one earned run on four hits against the Indians in his only career outing.
Last time out, he had the tough break of squaring off against Justin Verlander on Sunday afternoon. He held his own 5.2 innings, allowed three earned runs on six base hits, but suffered his 1 st career loss.
The Indians will counter with veteran RHP Derek Lowe (8-7, 4.43 ERA), who tossed six innings and gave up three earned runs against the Blue Jays in his last outing as he suffered his 7 th loss of the year.
In his career against the Birds, he is 8-8 with a 4.49 ERA over 114.1 innings of work. Earlier this season, he tossed 5.1 innings and allowed four earned runs on six base hits in a no-decision.
By: Alex Van Rees
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