Jones powers O's to victory


Jones powers O's to victory

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the first inning against Francisco Liriano and the Baltimore Orioles hung on to beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Josh Willingham's home run in the fourth was all Minnesota could manage against Tommy Hunter (4-4), who returned to Baltimore's stumbling rotation with a solid performance that lasted one out into the eighth inning.

Liriano (3-9) recovered after giving up the ball Jones crushed into the back of the second deck in left field, striking out 10 batters in six innings. His 25 strikeouts over his last two starts are a career best for consecutive outings, and this was only the third time he's posted back-to-back strikeout totals in the double digits.

But Hunter allowed only six hits to the Twins, who scored 25 runs over the first two games of the series and have the second-best batting average in baseball since June 1. The right-hander struck out just one but didn't walk anybody, giving the bullpen a much-needed break and helping the Orioles win for only the second time in their last eight games.

Jim Johnson shook off his past two shaky appearances to post his 27th save in 29 attempts despite yielding a leadoff single to Trevor Plouffe. Brian Dozier popped a bunt up high enough that first baseman Mark Reynolds raced in for a diving catch for the first out.

With the trade deadline looming at the end of the month, Liriano's contract expiring after the season and another handful of scouts from around the majors in attendance, the left-hander didn't disappoint. He walked three but allowed only four hits, and in 10 starts since returning to the rotation on May 30 he has 77 strikeouts.

The Twins had a bunch of chances to hand him a victory.

Joe Mauer grounded into a double play to end the first inning, and Ben Revere did the same in the third after consecutive singles to start that frame. Hunter helped himself with a slick between-the-legs pick-up of Revere's sharp comebacker.

Then in the seventh inning, with two on and one out, Hunter retired the next two batters on harmless pop-ups.

Hunter struck out Jamey Carroll to start the eighth, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter brought left-hander Troy Patton in with three straight lefties at the top of the Twins' lineup. Denard Span walked, Ben Revere singled and Joe Mauer moved them over with a soft groundout. Willingham was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up Justin Morneau, who bounced out to second base.

Hunter was the third straight starter recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take the mound for the Orioles, following Chris Tillman on Monday and Zach Britton on Tuesday. He's one of nine guys to take a turn this season. Their starting pitching has been in rough shape, with the knee injury to Jason Hammel last week and youngsters Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz sent back to the minors.

Hunter hasn't had much help. In his last 12 starts, spanning his time in Triple-A, the Orioles have scored 34 runs -- and 11 of those came on one night. Shortstop J.J. Hardy, in one of the worst slumps of all of them, a 6-for-66 slide and a .165 batting average since June 1, came through with a key single before Jones went deep.

The Twins announced in the eighth inning that manager Ron Gardenhire went home with a stomach virus. Bench coach Scott Ullger took over.

NOTES: To make room for Hunter, the Orioles designated RH reliever Brad Bergesen for assignment, one day after he was brought up from Triple-A Norfolk. ... The Twins have slotted recalled RH Nick Blackburn in the rotation for Friday to face Kansas City. LH Brian Duensing was moved back to the bullpen, but general manager Terry Ryan said the organization hasn't given up on Duensing as a starter because of his variety of pitches. ... Orioles DH Jim Thome was on the bench against the lefty Liriano, but he did get the ball he hit here for career homer No. 607 back before the game. Gardenhire met him halfway between the two clubhouses. ... The Orioles will send RH Wei-Yin Chin (7-5, 3.80 ERA), the only member of their opening day rotation still in the group, to the mound for the series finale on Thursday. He'll face RH Cole De Vries (2-2, 4.37 ERA), who gave up seven runs and three homers in five innings in his last start.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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