The Baltimore Orioles couldn't avoid being swept at home for the first time this season, losing to the Minnesota Twins, 4-3, at Camden Yards. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
The Orioles rallied late against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon, but couldn't avoid being swept at home for the first time this season with a 4-3 loss in front of an announced 32,267 at Camden Yards.
The struggling Orioles completed their first losing homestand of the year, dropping four of six to the Twins and Toronto Blue Jays. Nine of the Orioles' 10 losses over their past 13 games have been decided by two runs or fewer, but they dropped three games to the Twins this week by a combined score of 20-10.
"It's just a combination of some guys with a little bit of fatigue," first baseman Chris Davis said. "We had a few series where we were really swinging the bats well. I felt like we were doing some things really positive. Obviously, the last couple of series we really haven't had much to show for it. It's just kind of the way it goes sometimes.
"Either boom or bust, it's kind of obvious we're scoring runs by home runs or not scoring runs at all. It's tough to win games when you don't swing the bats well, but we'll put it behind us, take this off-day, get a little bit of rest, and get after them in Houston."
The Orioles hit three homers Wednesday, but all of them were solo shots.
After a much-needed day off Thursday, the Orioles (25-20) travel to Houston for a three-game weekend series against an Astros team that owns baseball's best record (31-15).
"We're getting ready to play one that's probably the best, so we knew the schedule was going to be tough," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "But it's the big leagues and you've got to beat those guys. Offensively, it's kind of been boom or bust and that's a challenge. You've got to pitch real well. They kept the solo home run in play today and usually when pitchers do that, you usually give yourself a chance to win."
Right-hander Chris Tillman struggled out of the gate, allowing three runs in a 36-pitch first inning. Tillman allowed six of the first seven hitters to reach on four hits and two walks, with the key hits in the inning being Kennys Vargas' two-run single and Eduardo Escobar's ensuing RBI single.
The Twins scored the eventual game-winning run on Max Kepler's RBI double with two outs in the second inning.
Tillman has failed to go more than five innings in three of his four starts this season, and on Wednesday he allowed 11 base runners (nine hits and two walks).
The Orioles came within one run of the Twins with a pair of solo homers in the seventh inning off the bats of Davis and Jonathan Schoop.
Before then, Twins right-hander Jose Berrios had held the Orioles to just two hits over his first six innings. He allowed just four base runners up until that point and only one run on J.J. Hardy's solo homer in the third. That is, until Davis swatted a first-pitch 92 mph fastball over the high right-field scoreboard for his 10th homer of the season.
Davis' blast was also his 209th homer with the Orioles, which tied him with Brady Anderson for seventh place on the team's all-time home run list.
Two batters later, Schoop lifted a 1-0 curveball inside the left-field foul pole for his sixth home run of the season, cutting the Twins' lead to 4-3.
Davis came up with two on and two outs the following inning, and was ahead of Twins lefty Taylor Rogers 3-0, but was caught looking at a sweeping curveball.
Bullpen holds Twins
The Orioles bullpen accounted for four scoreless innings, including two innings from right-hander Alec Asher in relief of Tillman.
Asher needed just 24 pitches in the sixth and seventh innings, overcoming a leadoff single by Byron Buxton -- the first batter he faced in the sixth -- to retire his next six batters.
Right-hander Darren O'Day struck out the side on just 11 pitches in the eighth, and right-hander Brad Brach struck out two and walked one in a scoreless ninth. Both were making their first appearance since Saturday.