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Olson keeps growing

The Baltimore Sun

MINNEAPOLIS -- Orioles manager Dave Trembley has acknowledged repeatedly that he was once Garrett Olson's biggest critic. He believed the young left-hander nibbled around the plate too much, that he had the pitches but not the command or confidence needed to succeed in the majors.

Olson's seven starts last season often bordered on the disastrous, and when the season mercifully ended, he had won just one game and posted an ERA that neared 8.00.

Yesterday, in the Orioles' 3-2 victory at Minnesota that gave them their first series win against the Twins in three years, Olson wasn't particularly sharp.

He allowed at least one hit in all but one of the six-plus innings he pitched.

But he hung in there. Wiggled out of jams. And won - for the fifth time in eight 2008 starts.

He's now 5-1 and tied with Daniel Cabrera for the team lead in victories.

Not bad for a 24-year-old who was clearly overwhelmed not that many months ago.

"His mound presence and poise has probably been as significant as anything else," Trembley said. "I dare say last year he might not have been able to handle some of the things I've seen him handle to this point in time. He's matured a lot. He deserves a lot of credit."

With his father, Ken, watching in the Metrodome stands, Olson did something he failed to do consistently last year - throw strikes, 66 in 98 pitches.

"I definitely have to say it is mound presence for me and feeling more comfortable out there," Olson said. "And letting the defense play behind me."

It was a simple game plan: Make the aggressive Twins swing the bat. He walked one batter and struck out one.

The Twins outhit the Orioles 12-7, but the Orioles homered twice. In the third inning, after Brian Roberts doubled against Minnesota starter Scott Baker, Nick Markakis hit his 10th home run of the season for a 2-1 lead.

Baker, who was making his first start since May 3 because of a right groin injury, challenged Markakis in a 10-pitch at-bat.

"I was fouling off fastball, fastball, fastball. I didn't want to make huge adjustments," Markakis said. "I just wanted to put the ball in play and make something happen. It ended up he left one over the plate and I stayed on top of it and put a pretty good swing on it."

Markakis hasn't had any shortage of good swings lately. After slumping a few weeks ago, Markakis now has an eight-game hitting streak and is batting .406 with five multi-hit games in that span.

The Orioles took the lead for good in the seventh when center fielder Adam Jones homered against Minnesota reliever Brian Bass (2-2).

It was Jones' third homer of the season and first since May 1. It came the day after he went hitless in four at-bats and slipped after catching a sacrifice fly that allowed an extra run to score in Wednesday's loss.

"Jones has been the kind of guy who bounces back from bad games," Trembley said. "I don't know how he does it. He's mentally a tough kid. He did it again."

The Orioles (29-30) bounced back to win their first series against the Twins since May 2005. They came into the Metrodome as losers of nine straight against Minnesota.

"It was a real gritty performance, day game after a night game, playing on the road, playing the Twins," Trembley said. "They're a real scrappy team. We're trying to emulate a lot of things that they do. Our club came ready to play today."

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