BALTIMORE— The Orioles looked as if they were in excellent position heading into the eighth inning. They had a two-run lead, and the normally infallible Darren O’Day on the mound. When leading after seven innings, the Orioles had been 51-1.
Then, it all came apart. O’Day quickly loaded the bases, and gave up three runs for the first time this season, and the Orioles were sent off to a painful 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins before 32,025 at Oriole Park on Friday night.
It unraveled quickly for O’Day. Miguel Sano walked, Trevor Plouffe blooped a single down the right field line and O’Day (5-2) hit Torii Hunter with a pitch.
Opposing players were 1-for-12 against O’Day with the bases loaded, and in his first three tries with three runners on and none out, he retired each batter.
Eddie Rosario’s fly to right scored Sano, and Kurt Suzuki’s pop fell into short right bring home Plouffe and Hunter, and Minnesota (61-61) led 4-3.
“Leadoff walk is never good, so that’s not good. Plouffe hits a ball; didn’t hit it hard, could have been caught. It’s in a tough spot. That happens. I can’t hit Torii Hunter to load the bases. Hits happen like that. They didn’t smoke any balls,” O’Day said.
“I made some good pitches, but it didn’t turn out. Late innings, sometimes you’ve got to be able to strike guys out. I wasn’t able to do that when I needed to.”
Jonathan Schoop made a long run to try and catch Plouffe’s ball, and kicked it. Gerardo Parra overthrew the cutoff man, allowing Hunter to advance to second.
“I think I tipped it. It was a bad route by me because when I was running over there and when I looked up the ball was a little bit back. But it happens,” Schoop said.
O’Day knows he’s not going to pitch out of every bases loaded jam.
“You’re raising the stakes. Any hit scores two runs and ties it up there. I’m not scared to pitch with the bases loaded, but it’s not ideal. In that situation, you’ve got to get some strikeouts, and I wasn’t able to do that,” O’Day said.
Nunez and Buxton singled to load the bases, and O’Day struck out Dozier before giving way to Brian Matusz.
Trevor May pitched a perfect eighth, and with Glen Perkins hurt, Kevin Jepsen picked up his sixth save in the ninth, striking out Adam Jones, Davis and Matt Wieters.
“Darren's a pretty tough critic of himself, but he's performed at such a high level, as good as any relief pitcher you want to see. I was kind of happy they finally hit the one line drive to left field, in a way. But that's the way it goes. We've had some of the benefit of that, also. Last night, there were obviously a lot of hard-hit balls, but sometimes you go through periods where those things happen for you and happen against you. You've got to overcome them. But we were close,” manager Buck Showalter said.
In the first three innings, Wei-Yin Chen allowed three singles without a run. Chen was scored upon in the fourth when Sano led off with a single, and with one out Hunter walked. Suzuki singled to load the bases with two outs, and Nunez walked to score Sano.
Chen thought he had Nunez struck out, and was upset when home plate umpire Eric Cooper didn’t give him the call he thought he deserved.
Adam Jones singled and Chris Davis walked in the first against Tommy Milone, but then the left-hander retired 13 straight.
In the sixth, Nolan Reimold and Manny Machado led off with singles, and Parra homered to right field, his fifth since joining the Orioles three weeks ago, and Baltimore (62-59) led 3-1.
After Davis singled, Casey Fien replaced Milone and ended the inning by picking Davis off.
Fien (3-5) recorded five outs for the win.
“We didn't do much offensively other than the sixth inning, we put together a little something there. We were hoping to try to make it stand up,” Showalter said.
Chen gave up one run on seven hits in six innings. Until the eighth, he was on the way to winning his third straight start for the first time this season.
“Today’s loss we lost to another team that is going for the wild card. Of course it hurts a lot. But all we can do now is try to play better and try to play better than our opponents. And that’s how we can get into the playoffs,” Chen said through his translator.
Brad Brach pitched a scoreless seventh, but O’Day found trouble in the eighth.
“If you look at the little things that happened, it’s a real interesting game. Those bounces go my way usually, but it didn’t tonight,” O’Day said.
COMING UP: Kyle Gibson (8-9, 3.99) faces Chris Tillman (9-7, 4.54) on Saturday night.
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