Chris Tillman was good tonight, striking out six and walking two without giving up a home run. Unfortunately, one of those walks ended up being the tying run, and unlike his last start, he gave up a few hits with runners on base. The opposing starter Kyle Gibson was not good -- he walked four and struck out just two -- but the Orioles couldn't take advantage of a few key opportunities and that ended up costing them the game.
The first inning had a few moments of tension. In the top half, Brian Dozier walked and then Joe Mauer reached first when Manny Machado failed to barehand a slow-rolling bunt. That's not a play you expect a third baseman to make, but this is Manny we're talking about here, so he's held to a higher standard. He tried to make up for it in the bottom half though by singling to start the Orioles' offense. Gerardo Parra then used a bunt of his own to move Machado into scoring position. Adam Jones grounded out, failing to advance the runner, but Chris Davis walked on a wild fourth ball that allowed Machado to move to third. Unfortuantely, Matt Wieters popped out.
But never fear. Tillman had a 1-2-3 second inning and then the Orioles' bats came to life (at least a little bit). Jonathan Schoop struck out to lead things off, but then Steve Clevenger singled up the middle. The hit extended his hitting streak to six games. He moved to second on a hit-and-run by J.J. Hardy, who couldn't beat out his half of the play. Then Henry Urrutia doubled into left field (his first career double!), scoring Clevenger and putting the Orioles up 1-0.
After that little outburst, all was quiet for both teams for awhile until the Twins tied the game in the top of the 6th. Eduaro Escobar led off the inning by hitting the ball sharply into center field. Jones moved quickly to his right to cut the ball off, probably hoping to create a play at second base. But in his haste to pick the ball up, he dropped it, and Escobar was easily safe at second base.
Then Twins uber-prospect Byron Buxton sacrified Escobar to third. Tillman fielded the bunt and made a laaaaaate throw that juuuuuust got Buxton at the bag. It was close enough that Twins manager Paul Molitor actually challenged the play but was denied. With the Orioles leading by 1 and one out in the inning, Buck brought the infield in against Brian Dozier, but Dozier singled sharply to score Escobar and tie the game at 1. Thankfully Tillman struck out Mauer and notable pelotero Miguel Sano to end the inning.
The Orioles regained the lead right away. Chris Davis walked to lead off the bottom half and then moved to second on a soft single by Matt Wieters. Schoop laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that enabled them both to move up, and then Molitor ordered Steve Clevenger walked intentionally to set up the double play and pitch to Hardy, although the move loaded the bases.
Hardy battled with Gibson for eight pitches, hitting a couple sharp liners just foul down the third base line, before hitting what ended up being a sacrifice fly to Torii Hunter in right field. Davis scored and the Orioles pulled in front 2-1. Henry Urrutia then did his part by singling, although no one scored, and then Kyle Gibson's day was done. Casey Fien came in to pitch to Manny Machado, who started 0-2 and then moved to 3-2 when Fien through three straight out of the zone. With the tension mounting though, Machado ultimately struck out.
The missed opportunities to add runs would spell the Orioles' doom in the very next inning. First batter Trevor Plouffe gave some indication that Minnesota hitters were starting to see Tillman well when he sent a deep fly ball to the warning track in left field. Tillman then walked Eddie Rosario, who moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Torii Hunter. All catcher Kurt Suzuki had to do was bunt the ball out to the right of the pitcher's mound and Rosario came home on a safety squeeze play to tie the game again. It was the very definition of a manufactured run: walk, hit-and-run, safety squeeze.
That did it for Tillman, as Brad Brach came in to pitch to Escobar. Brach has been amazing lately, with 27 strikeouts in his laste 18 appearances. But he missed with three straight pitches, at which point Showalter elected to intentionally walk Escobar. That worked out poorly, as Buxton then singled into left field to score Hunter and give the Twins a 3-2 lead.
That was all the scoring in the game. The Orioles would manage just one more hit, a single in the 8th inning by Clevenger that only ended up that way because pitcher Trevor May couldn't snag the ball with his glove. Brian Matusz and Jason Garcia worked the rest of the game. In the top of the 9th, Gerardo Parra appeared to hurt himself when he dove for a liner off the bat of Byron Buxton. The ball bounced off the end of his glove and he was slow to get up. He stayed in the game and batted in the bottom of the 9th, so let's hope he is okay.
The Orioles find themselves burned by a come-from-behind victory for the second night in a row. The loss drops them to 62-60 and Minnesota pulls within a half game of the Birds in the Wild Card standings. The Orioles will try to avoid the sweep tomorrow when they send Kevin Gausman to face Mike Pelfrey.