SARASOTA, FLA. — It was one of those “other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln” kind of nights for the Orioles on Saturday.
Opening Day starter Alex Cobb left his final exhibition start after one inning with a groin injury and the first two relievers who followed him to the mound each gave up four runs in an 8-7 loss to the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium.
Reliever Jimmy Yacabonis took over in the second and retired the side in short order, but allowed a two-run home run to Jason Castro and two more run-scoring hits before being replaced by minor league pitcher Tanner Chleborad with two outs in the third.
Chleborad made it through the fourth, but not before allowing four straight batters to reach with one out. Byron Buxton delivered the Twins’ fifth run of the game with a looping single to center field and Max Kepler launched a three-run home run to give Minnesota an 8-2 lead.
The Orioles also took advantage of the jet stream blowing out to left field to score twice in the third. Dwight Smith Jr. led off the inning against Twins right-hander José Berríos with a long home run — his third in just 20 at-bats since being claimed off waivers by the Orioles — and Chris Davis went the opposite way to clear the left-center-field fence for his second homer of the spring.
The Orioles also scored a run in the fourth when Chance Sisco led off with a walk, Jace Peterson was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and Jonathan Schoop made an error that allowed Sisco to score from second base.
Núñez goes deep twice in same at-bat
Third baseman Renato Núñez said before the game that his sore elbow still bothers him a little, but it doesn't hurt when he swings the bat.
That was obvious during an at-bat in the sixth inning in which he hit two mammoth fly balls to left field. The first one traveled right down the line, sailed high over the foul pole and was ruled foul by third base umpire Alex Tosi. Moments later, Núñez straightened one out and drove it over the left-center-field fence for his third homer of the spring.
Dwight’s big night
Smith was locked in at the plate all evening. He had already singled in the first inning before his home run in the third. He then hit the sharp bouncer that caromed off Schoop’s glove for the run-scoring error in the fourth and doubled home two runs in the sixth. He’s now 9-for-22 (.409) with six RBIs since joining the Orioles.
“He’s swung the bat good for the last week,’’ manager Brandon Hyde said. “I just like the way he uses the whole field. He stays on the ball. He drives the ball the other way. I like his approach at the plate. He’s come in here and done a great job.”
Reliever Evan Phillips struggled badly after he joined the Orioles last summer, but he’s having a terrific spring. He pitched two scoreless innings Saturday night to extend his streak of scoreless appearances to eight.
He has pitched 9 2/3 innings, allowed nine hits and striking out 10.
“He has pitched outstanding this camp,’’ Hyde said. “Just like tonight, went after them aggressively with a good fastball, a good slider. They got some weak contact off him. I’m excited about Evan. He’s somebody who is really going to help us out at some point.”
Givens getting right
Closer candidate Mychal Givens came on in the fifth inning and restored some semblance of order with a scoreless inning that featured two strikeouts. It was his second straight scoreless outing after giving up nine earned runs in his first 2 2/3 innings.