Leadoff man Brian Roberts made his much-anticipated return to the Orioles' lineup Friday night, going 0-for-4 but seeing 24 total pitches in four at-bats.
However, it was another player, who made his return from an injury earlier on this homestand, that made sure a quality outing from Jeremy Guthrie went rewarded. With the Orioles trailing by a run in the sixth inning, Luke Scott slammed a two-run homer off Anthony Slama, and Guthrie and the bullpen did the rest in a well-played 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of an announced 19,013 at Camden Yards.
It was just the Orioles' second victory in eight games since the All-Star break, and Guthrie's first win since May 25, a span of 10 starts. The right-hander, who certainly hasn't hurt his trade value with his last two outings, allowed just a Joe Mauer two-run homer in the sixth and six total hits over seven innings.
Mauer's two-run homer gave the Twins a 2-1 lead, but Scott answered with a two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the frame. It was Scott's 15th homer and since coming off the disabled list on July 19, the designated hitter is 9-for-19 with three homers and six RBIs.
The Orioles (31-65) had some anxious moments in protecting the 3-2 lead. Minnesota had runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth after Will Ohman retired Mauer but walked Jason Kubel. Interim manager Juan Samuel brought in David Hernandez, whose first pitch was driven by Michael Cuddyer to the wall in center field. However, Adam Jones made the catch.
Alfredo Simon then allowed a one-out single to Delmon Young in the ninth before retiring the next two to pick up his 14th save in 16 tries.
While the Orioles got a familiar face back in Roberts, their lineup also lacked one of their mainstays as interim manager Juan Samuel held Nick Markakis out of the starting lineup for just the second time all season. The last time was on May 27 and the reason for his absence that day was Markakis' wife, Christina, was giving birth to the couple's second child.
Roberts was given a warm welcome before his first at-bat and then he showed the Orioles a little bit of what they have been missing without reaching base. Roberts worked Twins starter Brian Duensing before grounding out to second base on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. If nothing else, Roberts at least allowed his teammates to get a read on the Twins' pitcher, who was making his first start of the season after making 39 relief appearances. Duensing was moved to the rotation in place of a struggling Nick Blackburn.
In contract, Felix Pie, who battled leadoff in the Orioles' 5-0 loss to the Twins on Thursday night, saw five total pitches in his first three at-bats.
Miguel Tejada followed Roberts' leadoff groundout with a line single to left and then he went from first to third on Luke Scott's two-out single up the middle. Adam Jones then drove in the game's first run with a single up the middle.
But Duensing settled down from there and started making pretty quick work of the Orioles. Ty Wigginton, who was issued a three-game suspension earlier in the day for his actions in Thursday's game but can continue to play as he awaits an appeal, tripled over the head of right fielder Jason Kubel in the third. Duensing, however, stranded him with a strikeout of Scott, starting a stretch where he retiring the final seven Orioles that he faced, higlighted by his inning-ending strikeout of Roberts on a 3-2 offspeed pitch.
Guthrie was also cruising, having allowed only two hits and three total baserunners over the first five innings. Joe Mauer and Jim Thome hit singles in the first and second innings respectively and they were both stranded. Guthrie then hit Delmon Young with a pitch in the fifth inning, but got the next batter, J.J. Hardy, to hit into an inning-ending double play. Guthrie needed just 64 pitches to keep the Twins scoreless through five innings.
He apppeared on his way to an easy sixth after striking out No.9 hitter and retiring Denard Span, who tried to bunt his way on but was thrown out on a nice play by Craig Tatum. However, Alexi Casilla, who entered the game in the third inning when Orlando Hudson was forced to leave with an injury, slapped a single to left. Mauer then hammered Guthrie's 1-2 slider 398 feet over the center-field all for his fifth home run of the season and just his second since June 19.
Guthrie did well later in the inning to hold the Orioles' deficit at 2-1. Following Mauer's homer, he gave up back-to-back singles to Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Designated hitter Jim Thome then ripped a liner back up the middle that shortstop Cesar Izturis, who was playing in shallow center as part of the shift employed against the left-handed hitter, fielded and threw to first for the key out.
Now in position to get the win, Duensing was removed after five innings and 66 pitches, the most that he has thrown this season. Anthony Slama, a former teammate of Orioles' starter Brian Matusz at the University of San Diego, came in and allowed a single to Tejada to start the sixth. After he retired Wigginton, Slama threw a 1-1 94 miles an hour fastball that Scott slammed into the right-field seats for his 15th homer.