One That Got Away

Twins 7 Orioles 6

Mistakes, Poor Relief Work Spoil O's Lead

Minnesota Wins It On Single In 9th

August 26, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,

MINNEAPOLIS - - Even in their losses recently, and there have been plenty of them, the Orioles have played pretty good baseball. But in Tuesday night's deflating 7-6 defeat to the Minnesota Twins before an announced 23,690 at the Metrodome, they did just enough to make sure that they wound up with the loss.

The Twins scored three times in the sixth inning to tie the game and then won it in the ninth on Delmon Young's RBI single to right field off Kam Mickolio, his fourth hit of the night. It was the Orioles' 27th loss in 38 games since the All-Star break, and the 15th of their past 26 losses by two runs or fewer.

Mickolio got the loss and allowed his first earned run of the season, but the Orioles (51-75) were in that position at all because a handful of mistakes and one really poor pitching performance that occurred long before the game's decisive hit. Orioles reliever Brian Bass faced five Minnesota Twins and got none of them out.

Felix Pie made two base-running gaffes and Luke Scott also made an out on the bases. Orioles pitchers walked six batters and gave up 12 hits. Second baseman Brian Roberts couldn't make a tough play on Michael Cuddyer's liner that would have ended the ninth inning. Mickolio then walked pinch hitter Jason Kubel before Young ripped a 3-2 fastball to right field. Nick Markakis' throw was off line and probably wouldn't have gotten Cuddyer anyway, as the Twins rushed out of the dugout to celebrate their season-high fifth straight victory.

In his fifth major league start, Brian Matusz left the game after five innings and 99 pitches in position to get his third major league win. He retired seven of the final eight hitters that he faced to salvage an uneven outing.

Matusz allowed three earned runs on seven hits, including Justin Morneau's tape-measure solo homer in the third, and two walks. The Orioles gave him a three-run lead in the top of the second and he gave two runs right back in the bottom of the inning. The Orioles scored one in the top of the fourth and he allowed the Twins a run in the bottom.

The 22-year-old lefty did show some mettle by holding it together and getting through five innings without his best stuff.

Bass, a former Twin, certainly did not do the same. Asked to protect a 6-3 lead in the sixth, he gave up singles to Young and Carlos Gomez to start his outing. Alexi Casilla then slammed a two-run double over Markakis' head. Bass walked Denard Span to load the bases and then walked Orlando Cabrera to bring in a run and cut the Orioles' lead to 6-5.

That's when Mark Hendrickson came in and inherited about the toughest possible situation. The bases were loaded, there were no outs and Joe Mauer and Morneau were due up. Hendrickson did about as well as you can ask, getting Mauer to hit into a double play that allowed the tying run to score. Morneau then grounded out to keep the game deadlocked at six.

The Twins represented a good challenge for Matusz, who had primarily faced lineups stocked with right-handed hitters in his first four big league starts. However, the Twins' leadoff man (Span) and their powerful No. 3 and 4 hitters (Mauer and Morneau) all bat left-handed.

Entering the night, left-handers were 0-for-8 against Matusz with five strikeouts. Matusz promptly struck out Span to start his outing but gave up back-to-back singles to Cabrera and Mauer. Matusz responded by striking out Morneau looking. After walking Cuddyer to load the bases, Matusz got out of the jam on Brendan Harris' groundout.

The Orioles then put up a nice cushion by scoring three times in the top of the second off right-hander Armando Gabino, who was making his major league debut. Gabino, who was converted from a third baseman to a pitcher in 2003, had made 163 of his 175 professional outings in relief.

He moved into Triple-A Rochester's rotation earlier this year because so many of their top starters had been summoned to the big leagues. Gabino went 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA in five starts but quickly learned how difficult it is to make the jump to the next level.

In the second inning, Gabino retired Scott on a flyout for the first out and then gave up hits to the next four batters he faced. Matt Wieters and Melvin Mora had singles and Michael Aubrey drove them both in with a double into the right center-field gap. Cesar Izturis gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead with a single to right field.

But the lead didn't help settle Matusz down as he surrendered hits to three of the four batters that he faced in the bottom of the second. The exception was center fielder Pie's diving catch on Gomez's drive to right center field. Span cut the Twins' deficit to 3-2 with a two-run double before Matusz retired Cabrera and Mauer with a man on third and one out.

The Orioles got one of the runs back in the third and knocked out Gabino in the process. The Orioles loaded the bases on Markakis' double and walks to Scott and Mora. Philip Humber then came in and walked Aubrey on four pitches with the bases loaded.

Morneau cut the Orioles' lead to 4-3 with a tape-measure third-inning solo homer that bounced just below the base of the upper deck.

His 29th homer and first since Aug. 2 traveled 411 feet.


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