In baseball, the effects of an erratic schedule can last for several days.
Even though they beat the Twins on Friday night after consecutive rainouts, a doubleheader and an ensuing early-morning arrival in Minnesota, Orioles manager Buck Showalter wasn’t convinced that his well-used bullpen was back in order. Showalter hoped he could get a deep start from left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on Saturday following Ubaldo Jimenez’s 71/3-inning scoreless outing Friday’.
Chen couldn’t provide that. Foiled by a high pitch count, he got through five innings but was unable to get an out in the sixth inning in a 6-1 loss to the Twins, ending his team’s three-game winning streak in front of an announced 25,318 at Target Field
Meanwhile, the Orioles (15-13) couldn’t solve Twins starter Kevin Correia, who held them to one run over seven innings for his first win of the season.
Correia entered the afternoon with an unsightly 7.33 ERA and was coming off a start in which he allowed seven earned runs. But on Saturday, Correia stranded four base runners in his first three innings and ended his outing by retiring 13 of the last 14 batters.
“We squared some balls up and didn’t get much to show for it, and then after that he didn’t make many mistakes,” Showalter said. “You know what guys are going to do, especially with the kind of background he has. He was able to do it.
“There’s a fine line there,” Showalter added. “Wei-Yin was a little wild in the strike zone, but we scored one run. Wei-Yin pitched well enough for us to be more in that game, but you’d still like to see him get deeper in that game than the fifth inning.”
Orioles pitching allowed two homers, including a backbreaking three-run homer by first baseman Joe Mauer off reliever Brad Brach in the seventh inning. Mauer drove in four runs on the afternoon.
The usually surehanded Orioles defense committed two throwing errors, one each by Gold Glove infielders J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado. The Orioles have lost eight of 10 games this season in which they’ve committed an error.
That extended innings for Chen, who allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Chen was coming off his best outing of the season, when he held the Kansas City Royals to two runs over a season-high seven innings in a no-decision April 26.
“Last start, for example, my slider was working really great in that game,” Chen said through interpreter Louis Chou. “So, hitters have something more to think about. Today, my slider wasn't all that good. So, the hitter has one less pitch to worry about. I need to get all my pitches working so hitters have trouble staying on my fastball.”
Chen (3-2), who had won his last three decisions, threw 20 or more pitches in each of his first three innings of work Saturday, including a 24-pitch first inning. He went through seven at-bats of at least seven pitches as Twins hitters battled deep into count by fouling pitches off.
“He was trying to go away and he jerks it across,” Showalter said of Chen. “He’s trying to go in and he leaves it out over the plate. Sometimes that has to do with the foul balls, too. … That allows a guy to fight that pitch off. There’s place to pitch everybody, even Babe Ruth, but it’s a matter of getting the ball there consistently.”
With the game tied at 1 in the third inning, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier ended a seven-pitch at-bat by hitting a 3-2 pitch from Chen off the second-deck facade in left for a solo homer, his eighth of the season, to give the Twins a 2-1 lead.
In the fifth inning, Dozier hit a slow grounder to the left side of the infield that Machado charged and flung wildly past first baseman Steve Pearce. Dozier, who was credited with an infield single, landed on second base on an error by Machado and scored on Mauer’s RBI single.
The Twins (13-15) took the lead three batters into the bottom of the first on Trevor Plouffe’s RBI double into right-center field, scoring Mauer — who had reached on a one-out single — from first base.
The Orioles responded with a run of their own in the top of the second. Adam Jones reached on a wild pitch after swinging at a third strike, stole second base and scored on Hardy’s RBI single. They had an opportunity to do more against Correia that inning, placing runners at first and second with two outs, but No. 9 hitter Jonathan Schoop struck out swinging to end the inning.
“He threw the ball well,” Hardy said of Correia. “He was throwing a pretty good cutter today, slider, curve. He was hitting some good spots. He threw well, kept us off balance.”
The Orioles threatened again in the third inning after back-to-back two-out singles by Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones, but Correia induced an inning-ending lineout from Steve Clevenger.
After the third, the Orioles managed just one base runner against Correia. That came on Nick Markakis’ one-out double in the fifth.
Brach, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Friday to provide bullpen depth, struggled in his Orioles debut. He allowed four hits and three runs, all on Mauer’s homer, over 11/3 innings.
After the game, Showalter said there might have been an effect from the events of the past few days.
“It’s a byproduct of getting rained out and playing a doubleheader,” Showalter said. “It affects you for sometimes a week,” Showalter said. “They’re going through the same thing over there. They needed some good starts to get back on their feet. We’ve got an off day on Monday, but it forced you to do some things. … It forces you to put people in places where they normally wouldn’t be pitching in.”