7/8/2017 -- The Orioles defeated the Twins Saturday, 5-1. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
As their season has gone into free-fall, the Orioles haven't played many crisp games of late. Then their winning formula of pitching, hitting and defense came together for a victory Saturday.
Going into Saturday's game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, their final road trip of the first half already had become a reel of losing on repeat. But the Orioles were able to stem their slide with their most complete game of the trip, beating the Twins, 5-1, after losing their first five games of this seven-game road trip.
The Orioles (41-46) ended their five-game losing streak by finally getting a decent starting pitching performance as struggling left-hander Wade Miley (4-7) was one out shy of a quality start, allowing one run over 5 2/3 innings in his final outing before the break.
"It was a good way to end it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That's why these guys are who they are. They don't run away from their struggles. They want to get back and make the contributions that they're asked to make. That's very typical of Wade."
After posting an 11.69 ERA over his previous six starts, Miley was in danger of losing his rotation spot, but Showalter wanted to grant him the opportunity to go into the break on a positive note.
"Definitely better, something to build on," Miley said. "I thought I was in a way better place out there mechanically with staying back over the rubber longer and it allowed me to do a lot more out front. But yeah definitely, a positive to take into the All-Star break."
After allowing 6.6 runs per game over the first five games of this road trip, the Orioles gave up just one run.
It allowed their bats to get going, and All-Star Jonathan Schoop — making his first career start at shortstop — put the Orioles up early with a mammoth two-run homer off Twins left-hander Adalberto Mejía. The blast went an estimated 462 feet and hit the third deck of Target Field's left-field stands.
"Schoopy there, that's a big homer, a big momentum swing for us when he hit that two-run homer," Miley said. "And we tacked on a few more the next inning, or two innings last whatever it was, and that one thing about it was I just wanted to throw up zeroes. That's a gritty team over there. They're swinging the bat really well. You just try to keep them off the scoreboard we had three runs at the time. Just don't let them score four."
Mark Trumbo also drove in two runs, one coming on a solo homer off left-hander Buddy Boshers in the eighth. It was Trumbo's 14th homer of the season and his fourth in his past nine games.
Joey Rickard and Manny Machado each had two hits and combined for back-to-back doubles that scored a run in the sixth.
Miley allowed just one run, in the third inning on Miguel Sanó's 21st homer of the season.
The Orioles left-hander definitely made himself work. He allowed at least two base runners in four of his six innings, including three times after retiring the first two batters of the inning. Miley overcame 11 base runners by working ahead in the count and using his breaking pitches, especially his curveball to get strike one.
After throwing first-pitch strikes to just two of his first nine batters over the first two innings, Miley threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of his last 18 batters, including seven first-pitch curveball strikes.
"I think it just keeps the hitters on the defense, rather than falling [behind] 1-0 and they go into attack mode right away," Miley said. "It kind of backs them off a little bit, and you just try to execute pitches from there. In those first couple of innings, I was in and out of damage but I wasn't getting ahead. You can kind of see the difference. In the third, fourth, fifth and sixth, I kind of got ahead and had a little less stressful innings and that's where we want to be."
Miley dodges close call
Miley just dodged a spinning splintered bat barrel that came back to the mound on Kennys Vargas' groundout to shortstop to end the fifth inning.
The bat missed Miley, but as he avoided it, he fell to the ground and scraped his knee. After the play, which stranded two base runners, Miley hobbled back to the dugout and returned for the sixth inning.
"I was able to get out of the way," Miley said. "I landed on the ground and scraped my knee. That was it."
It's not the first time Miley was hit in a game this year. On May 5, he left the game after getting hit by two comebackers in the first inning. Additionally, his second spring training start abruptly ended when he was hit by a comebacker in the arm and then the chest.
The Orioles bullpen hasn't been given many late-inning leads recently, and with closer Zach Britton unavailable after a 22-pitch eighth inning Friday night in his second outing back from the disabled list, right-handers O'Day, Mychal Givens and Brad Brach combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday.
In pitching two scoreless innings, Givens retired six of the seven batters he faced, but was challenged by Twins prospect Zack Granite, making his first major league plate appearance as a pinch hitter in the eighth.
Granite worked an 11-pitch at-bat after Givens got ahead of him 0-2, fouling off five pitches before flying out to left field.