MINNEAPOLIS – The Orioles will face the Minnesota Twins this afternoon at Target Field with an opportunity to claim back-to-back road series wins for the first time since last September.
If they win today to take two of three games here – they won two of three in their previous road series in Toronto – it would mark the first time they’ve won consecutive road series since Sept. 13-19 of last season, when they won in Toronto and Boston before dropping four straight in Tampa Bay, ultimately squashing their playoff hopes in 2013.
They’ve actually played very well on the road this season, heading into today having won eight of their previous 13 games away from Camden Yards.
The Orioles (15-13) enter the day a half-game out of first place in the American League East just behind the New York Yankees. But the division is still tightly packed -- all five teams are separated by 3 1/2 games. Expect that to continue.
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, today’s starting pitcher, was available as a reliever in a pinch the past two games. He was in the bullpen Friday for the entire game and could have come in Saturday if starter Wei-Yin Chen was forced out of the game in the first three innings.
Gonzalez hasn’t pitched since last Sunday, when he allowed four runs -- three earned -- and six hits over six innings in a 9-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
Because of the back-to-back rainouts this week that forced the Orioles to be idle for three straight days, Gonzalez is working on six days rest, and extra rest usually helps Gonzalez.
The extra rest helped Ubaldo Jimenez on Friday because it allowed him two side sessions to work on refining his mechanics. It didn’t help Chen so much because he was uncharacteristically wild and was working with one less weapon when he couldn’t get a feel for his slider.
But with Gonzalez, those extra days usually help. On regular four days rest, he’s 12-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 23 career starts. But when he receives more than four days rest, he’s 9-7 with a 2.97 ERA in 24 career starts.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter can finally feel like his bullpen is more in order today.
Even though Brad Brach allowed a three-run homer to Joe Mauer yesterday afternoon in his Orioles debut, Brach and left-hander Troy Patton were able to eat up three relief innings when starter Wei-Yin Chen couldn’t get out of the sixth.
Showalter was able to avoid using Tommy Hunter, who had pitched in three straight games, as well as Darren O’Day, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz.