The several thousand Orioles fans who endured a 2-hour, 31-minute rain delay before the first pitch of Thursday night's game against the Minnesota Twins were welcomed into the lower seating bowl once play began. They would watch the Orioles' most lopsided loss in more than four years.
By the time the Orioles' 15-2 loss to the Twins ended well after midnight, only about 200 of the announced 20,109 remained at the end of the battering. The PA announcer's voice echoed through the seating bowl. Fans chased foul balls through empty rows of green seats.
It was a night the Orioles wanted to quickly forget. The loss was their worst since a 17-3 road loss to the New York Yankees in the second game of a doubleheader on July 30, 2011. The 15 runs the Orioles allowed were their most since a 19-7 loss at Minnesota on July 16, 2012.
"We're not going to dwell on this game," designated hitter Steve Clevenger said. "We're going to move forward. We've got three more games against these guys and come ready to play tomorrow."
Struggling right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (9-9) labored through his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs over five innings. Twins starter Tyler Duffey (2-1), who was making his third major league start, held the Orioles scoreless for his first seven innings before allowing two runs in the eighth.
Instead of pouncing on a team that arrived in Baltimore fresh off being swept by the Yankees in New York – the same Twins that entered the night 13-22 since sweeping the Orioles at Target Field last month – the Orioles fell flat in their series opener against them.
Winners of five of six entering the night, the Orioles wasted an opportunity to come within four games of the American League East-leading Yankees, who lost to the Cleveland Indians.
The Orioles have lost all four games against the Twins this season, and have been outscored 32-10 by them.
Gonzalez allowed a season-high seven runs, the most he has given up in a span of 49 regular-season games (48 starts) dating to his first start of last season, when he allowed seven runs on April 4, 2014, in Detroit.
"His command got away from him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He was wild in the strike zone and you do it against any major league team, you're going to pay a price. He got some things in his favor and he just couldn't finish them off. We've had some challenges here where some of the counts we get in our favor, we haven't been able to use it. We ended up giving up some hits in counts that we shouldn't be giving up those hard-hit balls there. Obviously, there were enough of them there to be picky to talk about the two or three that might not have been hard."
Gonzalez has been searching for consistency all season, but has especially struggled since returning from the disabled list in late June.
In 11 starts since returning from a strained groin, Gonzalez has a 6.48 ERA. He has failed to go beyond the fifth inning in seven of those starts and batters are hitting .320 against him in that span.
Duffey held the Orioles scoreless until Gerardo Parra's RBI single with one out in the eighth inning. The Orioles had just five hits before scoring two runs off Duffey in the eighth.
The Twins (60-61) batted around in a five-run second inning during which Gonzalez let seven batters reach base (five hits and two walks) and threw 40 pitches.
The first six Twins hitters reached base against Gonzalez, who got ahead 0-2 against three of the first four batters.
"Getting ahead of guys and then obviously, got to like even counts," Gonzalez said. "It's really tough to, especially a team like this that's going to go out there and start swinging at anything that's going to be close. You've just got to finish hitters off when you're ahead and make pitches when you need and things will turn around."
Gonzalez was ahead of rookie Miguel Sano 0-2, but then issued a leadoff walk. After allowing singles to the next two hitters to load the bases, he worked slumping veteran Torii Hunter to an 0-2 count before walking him to force in a run.
Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki jumped on the first pitch he saw from Gonzalez, roping a two-run single to left field. No. 9 hitter Eduardo Escobar ended a nine-pitch at bat with an RBI double to the right-center gap.
Two batters later, Brian Dozier drove in Suzuki with a single to left, but Henry Urrutia threw out Escobar at home plate.
Still, the Orioles faced a 5-0 deficit that would only get worse. Gonzalez allowed a two-run homer to Sano in the fifth, the 23rd homer he has allowed this season, fifth most in the AL.
Rule 5 draft pick Jason Garcia, who had posted three scoreless outings since coming off the DL on Aug. 6, allowed two runs on Trevor Plouffe's full-count, two-out double in the seventh.
Left-hander T.J. McFarland then allowed six runs on five hits and a walk in the eighth inning. The key play of that inning was a botched force at second base off the bat of Sano with the bases loaded that allowed two runs to score.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop couldn't come up with shortstop Ryan Flaherty's throw to second and was charged with his third error in three games.
Escobar added a solo homer off McFarland in the ninth.
The Orioles didn't mount much against Duffey. They put two runners in scoring position with no outs in the second on Chris Davis' leadoff single and Matt Wieters' double. But the Orioles failed to score as Schoop popped before Clevenger and J.J. Hardy struck out.
"That was a big spot," Clevenger said. "Them to put up five runs and have us have the opportunity to come in and score two and we just didn't get it done tonight. [Duffey] pitched a good game, hats off to him. He did a great job keeping us off balance and doing what he needed to do."
Run-scoring singles by Parra and Caleb Joseph in the eighth ended the shutout bid in an inning that also included Flaherty ending an 0-for-34 slump with a single. Duffey struck out eight and walked none over 7 2/3 innings.
"He did exactly what we thought he was going to do, which is a real tribute to him and the quality of his curveball," Showalter said of Duffey. "We knew he was going to throw a lot of them. He threw really late and works underneath the ball a lot. That type of curveball is always tough against left-handed batters if he continuously throws it in the right spot, which he did."