Friday nights have been rough this season, but usually that's the first game of the series, which have also been rough. When its the second game of the series, things have gone better. But the Friday night jinx would reign tonight. Maybe they should stop with the black jerseys. Just try it.
The first inning was a mixed bag. Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer both got singles with one out to threaten Chen early, though he would work out of it ending up with 19 pitches. And when Tommy Milone came in and got two quick outs, you thought "Here we go again". But then Adam Jones would get a single and Chris Davis would walk. Like the rest of the game, the Orioles didn't get off to the quick start the Twins did, and even though no runs would be scored in that inning, the Orioles would end it with the advantage - Tommy Milone threw 27 pitches.
The next couple innings would occur without much action...both Chen and Milone were pitching comfortably and efficiently. But then came the fourth inning. It was one of the more frustrating innings I've watched all season. Sano would lead off with a single, before Hunter got a one-out walk. And then with two outs, Kurt Suzuki would hit a ball that looked like it was rolling through a tar pit for all the speed it had as Suzuki ended up safe at first. The entire inning it looked like Chen was getting squeezed - were they all strikes? No. But sometimes its close enough and you can tell the batter was fooled and the pitcher should get the call. There were also a ton of foul balls. Chen would end up throwing something like 40 pitches this inning, but it really didn't seem to be his fault. The Twins just got the good breaks. Anyway, after Suzuki, Nunez would walk in a run to score the game's first run. Buxton came up next and also worked Chen for a lot of pitches before grounding out. It should be noted he was only out because of a great throw by Manny Machado, who came in on the ball quick and threw a rocket to Davis at first. Buxton is very quick and showed it on that play, Machado just barely got him. For all that though, the Twins only got one run.
Milone continued to pitch a great game into the sixth inning...he hadn't allowed a baserunner since the first inning. Reimold and Machado hit back to back singles to lead off the inning before Parra came up to hit an Earl Weaver special. And just like that, it was 3-1 Orioles. After a one out single by Chris Davis, Milone was pulled from the game. He didn't allow a baserunner for four consecutive innings, but still didn't make it as deep into the game as Chen. Somehow Davis ended up in a rundown situation and got tagged for the final out. The Orioles are good at a lot of things, baserunning is not one of them.
When Darren O'Day comes in to pitch the eighth inning, usually that means things are going well. Tonight though wasn't O'Day's night. A walk and a single quickly got two runners on base with no outs. O'Day follows that up by hitting Hunter to load the bases. Rosario hit a sac fly to Parra to score a run. Parra tried to throw to 3rd to get Plouffe out, which failed, and it allowed Hunter to go to second. Since Kurt Suzuki would hit a bloop single that scored Plouffe and Hunter, maybe that play made a difference. But Nunez and Buzton followed with singles, so maybe not. O'Day struck out Dozier before he was pulled from the game. Brian Matusz came in to face the lefty Joe Mauer and struck him out to end the inning. In all, the Orioles gave up three runs and the lead, and would enter the ninth trailing 4-3.
Even though Brach had been pitching well, I was OK with the decision to bring in O'Day for the eighth. It didn't work out, but in a close game where you want to hold on to your lead, I think bringing in a guy like O'Day makes sense. But in the ninth, when you're down a run in a game you really need to win after what happened last night, why do you bring in Mychael Givens? It seemed like an odd choice to me, but it worked out.
So onto the bottom of the ninth. Adam Jones would lead it off. He worked Jepsen pretty good for a nine pitch at-bat, but struck out swinging on a pitch down the middle. Frustrating. Chris Davis followed him to the plate. He struck out swinging as well, but didn't seem to be trying as hard. How about Matt Wieters? Same thing. For a guy who's not a regular closer, he got three straight strikeouts against three of the O's best hitters. And the Orioles losing streak against the Twins (the Twins!) continues...
The Orioles still have a chance to even up this series, but that would still be a pretty disappointing outcome to this one. If the Orioles do somehow make the playoffs this season, it won't be for a lack of trying not to.