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Orioles are two-hit, 2-0, by Twins' Ervin Santana, a free agent they passed on in 2014

The guy who tied the Orioles lineup in knots Tuesday night could have just as easily been pitching for the O's.

Right-hander Ervin Santana was available as a free agent during the spring of 2014, but the Orioles decided to sign Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year deal instead and Santana went to the Atlanta Braves on a one-year, make-good deal.

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Who knows what would have happened if he had come here, but he would make good with 14 victories in 2014 and went on to sign a four-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, who are now on the verge of sweeping a three-game series at Oriole Park after scoring a 2-0 victory.

Santana was the picture of efficiency. He went right at the Orioles lineup and the O's hitters went right at him, as evidenced by the fact that he needed just six pitches to get through the first inning. He also had a six-pitch inning in the sixth and a seven-pitch inning in the seventh as he cruised into the ninth without hitting the hundred mark.

"He was mixing his pitches well, using his off-speed more than he had in his other starts this year, I'd say, according to the scouting reports,'' Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini said. "His cutter was really effective. It looked good out of his hand, and then he just missed barrels with it and I think that's what really set him apart tonight."

Santana went all the way and allowed just two hits and two walks on the way to his seventh victory and 10th career shutout, which tied him with Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw for the major league lead.

"I think he came in second in the league in ERA. ... Good pitcher," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Still, frustrating night for our guys. We didn't have many opportunities."

Meanwhile, Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy was also pitching a strong game, for all the good it did him.

Bundy was coming off his first nonquality start of the season and worked a solid seven innings, striking out seven and allowing just two runs – the first on a single by Byron Buxton in the fifth inning and the second on a homer by  Brian Dozier in the seventh.

The Orioles (25-19) lost their third game in a row and ninth of the past 12.

Short work: Santana was so efficient, in fact, that the 2:23 time of game equaled the shortest of the season for the Orioles, who also played the second game of the season in that exact time on the way to a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on April 5.

Bundy was the winning pitcher in that game.

No RISP reward: The Orioles entered the game ranked first in the American League with a .315 combined batting average with runners in scoring position, but they created only one opportunity to take advantage of it.

Jonathan Schoop was the only Orioles batter to get into scoring position. He walked to open the third inning and moved around to third on an out and a wild pitch, but the O's were hitless in two at-bats with him in scoring position.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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