Five home runs against Orioles relievers Saturday lifted the Minnesota Twins to a 9-2 win and their second series victory over Baltimore in a week.
C.J. Cron’s two-run shot off left-handed reliever Paul Fry in the sixth inning put the Twins ahead 3-2 and Max Kepler provided seventh-inning insurance by taking Tanner Scott deep. Marwin González snapped an 0-for-19 skid with an eighth-inning blast off Jimmy Yacabonis, who allowed back-to-back home runs to Jason Castro and Kepler later in the inning.
Of the team’s major league-high 69 home runs allowed, the Twins have hit 21, and the Orioles bullpen has surrendered 34. Entering play Saturday, 16 whole staffs had given up fewer.
“It's the big leagues,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We've gotta be better than that and understand who can beat me and who can't at appropriate times and who's on deck, all those sorts of things that go along with winning pitching. We're still learning a lot of things.”
Fry pitched a crisp fifth inning in relief of starter Dan Straily, but former Oriole Nelson Cruz improved to 10-for-20 against his old club this season with a leadoff double off Fry in the sixth and moved to third on a fly ball. Cron then crushed the eighth pitch of his at-bat to left to flip a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.
The home run came on Fry’s season-high 30th pitch, a mark he had only reached twice in his career. He finished the inning and threw 45 total. Hyde said Fry ideally would’ve pitched around Cron to face one of the lighter-hitting switch hitters, González and Ehire Adrianza, due up behind him.
“You're staying in the game to pitch around somebody, not let somebody beat you,” Hyde said, “and that's just a learning process.”
Left-hander Tanner Scott issued a four-pitch walk to Castro before Kepler homered on a 2-1 slider. Scott then gave way to Yacabonis, who retired the next four Twins before González’s home run. Yacabonis followed that with a walk to Byron Buxton ahead of Castro and Kepler’s home runs.
“I just think those balls were right in the middle of the plate,” Hyde said. “Those are good hitters.”
Straily effective but inefficient
After three solo home runs doomed him in his previous start April 20, also against the Twins, Straily kept the ball in the yard Saturday, but Minnesota challenged him in other ways.
As he retired the first six batters, Straily needed 32 pitches through two innings as the Twins tasked him with a few long at-bats. He nearly doubled his pitch count in the third.
Willians Astudillo began the inning with a single off the left-field wall. Straily got the first out on a popup from Jonathan Schoop before Castro hit a soft comebacker to the first base side of the mound. Straily chased it down and threw across his body toward second trying to start a double play, but his throw went into center field for an error as both runners advanced.
“That was a pretty terrible effort on my end,” Straily said. “In my head the whole time, I was thinking, ‘Two, two, two.’ And then as soon as he hit it, I had way more time than I thought I had. It’s one of those things that kind of happened. I didn’t have a grip and it was off the wrong foot.”
Kepler put the Twins ahead 1-0 with a sacrifice fly; left fielder Dwight Smith Jr.’s throw arrived to home on time to possibly catch Astudillo, but it was well off-line.
Straily escaped the inning without further damage, but he threw 28 pitches. He surpassed that with 29 in the fourth. Rio Ruiz fielded a hard grounder from Schoop and raced to third for a forceout as the Twins left the bases loaded.
Straily finished with 89 pitches in four innings, with his own error responsible for the only run he allowed. It was unearned. He has a 2.57 ERA in his past three starts.
“Seems like every pitch I threw, these guys found a way to foul it off today,” Straily said. “Just wasn’t able to go deep into the ballgame like you want to as a starting pitcher. But I was able to give our team what I had inside me today.”
All Hans on deck
Trey Mancini exited after his first-inning single with a bruised right index finger, having fouled a José Berríos fastball off the finger earlier in the at-bat. Hanser Alberto entered as a pinch runner and performed well.
Alberto went 2-for-3 batting in Mancini’s second spot of the lineup and a provided a go-ahead single to score Stevie Wilkerson in the fifth, breaking a 1-1 tie. He also singled to lead off the eighth, but Twins left-hander Taylor Rogers struck out the next three Orioles to quiet any thoughts of a rally.
Ruiz, who tied the game with an RBI single in the fourth, was the only other Oriole with multiple hits.