Tuesday night, as Buck Showalter celebrated his 61st birthday and his seventh as manager in Charm City, the Baltimore Orioles (25-18) took the field at rainy Camden Yards against the surprising first place Minnesota Twins (23-18). The Twins held a one game lead on Cleveland in the AL Central, the O’s were a game and a half behind New York in the AL East and leading the Wild Card, but trending in the wrong direction the last few weeks.
The goals for the O’s – stop a two-game losing streak, get Dylan Bundy his sixth win and completely forget the nightmare that was Monday’s game. None of that was accomplished.
Top pitchers battle
Both fresh off their worst starts of the season last Thursday, but strong overall in 2017, Dylan Bundy (5-2, 2.97) faced Ervin Santana (6-2, 2.07). Neither would disappoint, however one would be better.
Twins DH Kennys Vargas got the first hit off Bundy with a double to left in the second, SS Jorge Polanco walked and the inning ended on a ground out to Chris Davis. In the third, CF Byron Buxton walked and was thrown out at second sliding past the base and Bundy was easily through the inning.
After a Jonathan Schoop walk to lead off the third against Santana, JJ Hardy flied out to the back of the warning track in right. Seth Smith grounded out to 1B Joe Mauer, Schoop went to third on a wild pitch and Adam Jones flied out to left.
Through three innings, Bundy and Santana were on their games. It was a completely different game from Monday, part of the beauty and grind of baseball.
RF Max Kepler, the Twins top rookie in 2016, doubled in the fourth with two outs and the inning ended with a fly out to right. Through four, the Twins were 0-2 with runners in scoring position, had only two hits, and Bundy continued to look solid.
Mark Trumbo walked with one out in the fourth, Chris Davis flied to Buxton in center field, and Welington Castillo struck out on a questionable check swing call. Through four, both pitchers had thrown a little more than 50 pitches and yielded only three total hits.
Small cracks for Bundy and the O’s
Jorge Polanco walked off Bundy to start the fifth, C Jason Castro singled sharply to right and the Twins were in business with runners on the corners and nobody out. Byron Buxton singled to left plating the first run of the game.
Next, in a bizarre sequence with one out, Manny Machado missed a foul ball down the third base line (it was a tough play, but one Manny usually makes) and DH Robbie Grossman singled to center, but Adam Jones quickly short hopped the ball and forced Buxton out at second. Joe Mauer struck out swinging and the damage was minimal.
A two-out solo home run to left by Twins 2B Brian Dozier in the seventh made it 2-0. It was time to stretch – “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” – and Bundy looked good overall, but Santana was great.
On the night, Bundy left after pitching seven innings on 107 pitches, giving up six hits, one home run, three walks and seven strikeouts. It was another quality start for the O’s 2011 first round pick born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was replaced by LHP Richard Bleier, who pitched the eighth and ninth.
Santana sharp; O’s bats quiet
Twice during the game, in the first and sixth innings, Ervin Santana got three outs on six pitches. He sent the O’s down on seven pitches in the seventh. It took a few more pitches, but Santana retired Schoop, Hardy and Smith in order to end the eighth inning. This scene was getting familiar. Through 24 outs, Santana had retired eleven in a row and thrown only 95 pitches.
Hits by Welington Castillo and Jonathan Schoop were the only knocks for Baltimore on Tuesday. Seth Smith, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado were each 0-4. Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Trey Mancini and JJ Hardy were 0-3.
Ervin Santana threw a complete game and was absolutely brilliant. He ended the game with 14 consecutive outs and the O’s were shutout for the second time in 2017.
Wednesday’s game and notes
Wednesday’s game in Baltimore is scheduled for 12:35pm against Minnesota. Chris Tillman (1-0, 3.52) will face RHP Jose Berrios (2-0, 0.59).
Tuesday was Bundy’s first career start against the Twins and before first pitch, 3B Miguel Sano was the only Minnesota player he’d ever faced.
Trey Mancini continued to look good learning left field, highlighted by two running catches in the rain during the seventh inning.
In 2014, days after signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year contract, the O’s were rumored to be in on Ervin Santana. He went to Atlanta instead and Minnesota the following year.
Cal Ripken, Jr., took in the game at Camden from the first row behind home plate. On April 15, 2000, at the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Ripken got hit number 3,000 against Minnesota. In 1982, Ripken beat out former Twins great Kent Hrbek for Rookie of the Year.