It was a brisk 45 degrees at Target Field for first pitch; the cold weather evidenced by the large number of players wearing face/neck warmers.
The top of the first was notable only because the O’s lost their hottest hitter, Trey Mancini, to injury. Not the way you want to start a game.
After a bloop single to center field, Mancini was met at first base by head trainer Brian Ebel and manager Brandon Hyde. Two pitches before the single, it looked like Mancini fouled an inside pitch off his hand and/or wrist, which is the area Ebel seemed to be checking out.
The oddest part of the whole incident was the fact that Mancini had no visible reaction at the plate when he seemed to sustain the injury. It wasn’t until he reached base two pitches later that he reacted negatively.
Hanser Alberto pinch ran for Mancini and took over at second base in the bottom of the first, with Stevie Wilkerson moving to right field.
Dan Straily started things off on the right foot in the bottom of the first, dispatching the first three Twins batters in order on 18 pitches, including a pair of strikeouts. He followed suit in the second, needing only 14 pitches to get three more outs.
But the Twins got on the board in the third with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Max Kepler. Willians Astudillo led off the inning with a single, and after retiring Jonathan Schoop on a pop-up, Straily made a throwing error to second base on a ground ball that put runners at second and third before the aforementioned sac fly.
The O’s responded in their next at-bat with a run of their own when Rio Ruiz singled home Renato Nunez with two outs. Nunez had reached on a double to right center field.
While Straily needed 32 pitches to get through the first and second, he needed 57 to get through the third and fourth. He loaded the bases in the fourth but got out of that jam when Ruiz picked a wicked ground ball at third off the bat of Schoop and raced to the bag for the final out.
Another two-out RBI came in the fifth for the O’s. Wilkerson began the inning with a single off the glove of first baseman C.J. Cron and then he stole second base. After a pair of strikeouts, Alberto singled to right field, driving home Wilkerson and giving the Birds a one run lead.
Straily’s day was done after four innings. He allowed three hits, a walk and three strikeouts. His lone run was unearned, even though the error that led to it was his own. The right-hander’s ERA is now 6.75.
Reliever Paul Fry made quick work of the Twins in the fifth, retiring the side on 12 pitches. But Minnesota got to the left-hander the following inning, when Cron drove a 3-2 slider into the seats in left field after a Nelson Cruz double, putting the Orioles at a one run deficit.
Trevor May came on in relief of Jose Berrios in the top of the seventh. Berrios allowed two runs on seven hits, with eight strikeouts and no walks, leaving his ERA at 2.97 — exactly where it was at the start of the game.
Another two-run home run came in the seventh for the Twins, lengthening their lead to three. This time it was Max Kepler who launched a shot to right off of Tanner Scott after a leadoff walk. Jimmy Yacabonis was then summoned to enter the game, removing Scott before he could record a single out.
Baltimore’s batters continued to strike out at a steady clip, even after Berrios left the game. May had two K’s in an inning and Taylor Rogers struck out three in an inning of work.
Minnesota added a lot of insurance in the eighth on — you guessed it — the home run ball. There were three home runs off Yacabonis in this inning, to be exact, including a solo shot by Marwin Gonzalez, a two-run jack by Jason Castro, and another solo by Max Kepler. 9-2, Twins. We might have to start calling these articles opponent home run updates instead of game recaps.
Minnesota has hit a staggering 21 home runs in five games against the O’s this season.
The Orioles came into this game leading all of baseball in home runs allowed with 64, and they gave up five more today, bringing the total to 69. The next closest team at the start of play was the St. Louis Cardinals with 51 home runs allowed.
Are the balls juiced? Are the Orioles’ pitchers this bad? Maybe both.