Orioles blast out of losing streak with 11-0 win over Twins

Wieters has 4 RBIs, Roberts and Guerrero 3 each as offense awakens

April 20, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

On a drizzly, breezy night when the Orioles set a season high in hits and runs and threw their second shutout of the season in an 11-0 pounding of the injury-riddled Minnesota Twins, the real story is what didn't happen.

The longest losing streak in Buck Showalter's career as Orioles manager, that stomach-turning, eight-game skid that morphed cautiously optimistic fans into raging cynics who have watched re-runs of this April disaster flick way too many times, wasn't extended.

It's over, a memory.

"We've got a winning streak of one right now," center fielder Adam Jones said. "When was that eight-game losing streak? It's out of my mind."

Heading into Tuesday, the Orioles hadn't won since shutting out the Texas Rangers on April 9 and hadn't had a lead in 38 innings. They pushed that streak to 39 before scoring three times in the second and four times in the fifth for their most lopsided victory of the young season in front of a soggy but spirited announced crowd of 12,045.

After scoring just 10 runs in their past four games, the Orioles (7-9) exploded for a season-high 13 hits and a season-high 11 runs -- with all 11 coming with two outs.

"We got the monkeys off our backs," said Jones, who was one of six Orioles with at least two hits. "We got all 11 runs with two outs. That's something we haven't been doing -- late, two-out hitting and hitting with runners in scoring position."

Consider that the Orioles had just one extra-base hit with two outs and runners in scoring position in their first 15 games this season. They had three Tuesday: Brian Roberts' RBI double in the fourth, Matt Wieters' three-run double in the fifth and a three-run homer by Vladimir Guerrero in the ninth, his second home run as an Oriole.

"There is a lot more talent in the clubhouse than we've had in the past," Wieters said. "And with the track records that all these guys have, you know they are going to some damage at some point."

Twins starter Carl Pavano (1-2) was the recipient. The veteran right-hander had allowed just two runs to the Orioles in 17 innings last year and 17 runs in nine starts in his career (2.75 ERA) versus Baltimore before coughing up eight (seven earned) in 42/3 innings Tuesday.

Wieters started the assault with an RBI single in the second. He scored the first of his career-best three runs on Roberts' two-run single. Roberts padded his team-lead in RBIs to 14 with his third three-RBI game of the month.

Wieters' bases-clearing double off the right-field wall chased Pavano in the fifth and gave Wieters the second four-RBI game of his career, one shy of his big league best set Sept. 15, 2009. The catcher's batting average jumped from .209 to .239, and his RBI total surged from five to nine.

"We all know what Matt's capable of. He's got everything in the background to feel like he's going to be a threat offensively, and he's showing signs of that," Showalter said. "But I'll say it again: What he does behind the plate, I'd put him up against just about anybody."

Wieters is 5-for-5 with eight RBIs when hitting with runners in scoring position this season. His offense alone was enough to propel battery mate Jake Arrieta to victory.

Arrieta (2-1) threw six scoreless innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out four. It dropped his season ERA nearly two runs from 7.04 to 5.06. Three of his four outings this season have been quality starts.

"I think overall it was really good," Arrieta said of his outing. "When we score some runs offensively, the biggest thing to do is not give up rebound runs. One of the biggest things is when your team puts some runs on the board and you put up a zero, that continues to build their confidence when they do their job and you go out and do yours. That aspect of the start was really good."

Arrieta wasn't particularly efficient, throwing 108 pitches in six innings, 66 for strikes, and only once did he have a perfect inning. But he continually worked out of jams, including in the fourth, when, with two on and one out, he induced a flyout and then struck out Luke Hughes on a nasty 84-mph slider.

"I thought a couple big innings were, after we scored a run or multiple runs, he went back out there and hung up a zero," Showalter said of Arrieta.

"That was big. I find that a little more to be proud of."

Unlike Arrieta's last start, which he left with a 5-3 lead at Yankee Stadium only to watch Orioles relievers blow the win, this time the bullpen held up against a Twins team that has scored the fewest runs in the American League.

Jason Berken, who pitched two innings, loaded the bases in the eighth but didn't yield a run. Josh Rupe pitched a scoreless ninth for the Orioles' second shutout of the season. The other one was a 5-0 victory against the Rangers on April 9 -- their last time in the win column.

This victory meant more though. It proved that the Orioles, who started out 6-1, would win again in 2011 -- and win with a strong outing by a young starter and a commanding performance by a previously dormant offense. For one day, it hinted that maybe the sky hasn't completely fallen in Baltimore in April.

"It is frustrating, but it is early. It's too early to be making playoff predictions right now," Wieters said. "We are very comfortable with how our team is, and, even with this eight-game losing streak, we are very comfortable with where we are."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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