Another day, another 9 IP from Carl Pavano. It's becoming almost routine to see him on the mound in the 9th inning. He was in total control in this game, never allowing more than one baserunner in an inning, and allowing only 2 men to reach 3rd base. He gave up just 5 H and 1 BB with 4 K, and needed only 102 pitches to get 27 outs.
Another day, another huge hit with RISP from Delmon Young. The Twins ambushed Kevin Millwood with 2 outs in the 1st inning, filling the bases on a Joe Mauer 2B and back-to-back BB to Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Young promptly emptied them with a drive to the gap in left center, and Pavano would have all the run support he needed before ever taking the mound.
Twins 2, Orioles 3
This was the first start for Brian Duensing, and it went extremely well. He gave up a run in the 1st on 3 singles, but 2 of them were little bleeders. He allowed only one other baserunner in the next 4 innings, completing 5 IP in just 66 pitches. Since he wasn't stretched out yet, that was plenty, so Anthony Slama was brought in to pitch the 6th. He gave up 3 H, 2 of which were scabby little bloop jobs. But there was nothing cheap about Luke Scott's game-winning HR. Slama got to see that, in the Majors, the difference between a knee-high pitch on the outside corner and a knee-high pitch on the inside corner is about 400 feet.
The Twins couldn't muster much offense against Jeremy Guthrie, scoring both of their runs on Mauer's 5th HR, which was their only XBH. Not shown in the box score, however, were a multitude of loud outs, including a couple of drives to the wall, a couple of sparkling plays by the O's defense, and a liner to CF on what looks to be Orlando Hudson's last swing for a couple weeks. The guys swung the bats well enough to score some more runs - the Orioles just made all the plays in the field. Shrug.
Twins 7, Orioles 2
Good Scott Baker started this game, a particularly welcome sight on the road. He went 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, HR, 1 BB, 8 K in just 89 pitches. (The heat was oppressive in Baltimore all weekend, so he was pulled despite being in great position to at least start the 8th.) This Scott Baker, if he shows up on a regular basis, makes the Twins into true contenders this year, because he gives them a 3rd above-average starter to run out after Pavano and Francisco Liriano. Let's see if he can build off this one.
The Twins' first 3 R came in thanks to Young (SF, 2-R HR). But it was the little guys who put the game away. Alexi Casilla, getting his first start at 2B in place of Hudson, had an RBI single and a SB. Danny Valencia, Jason Repko and Denard Span all had RBI H in the 7th. Young finished the game 4 for 4, Valencia 3 for 5. As a team, the Twins racked up 14 H.
Twins 10, Orioles 4
Good Kevin Slowey showed up for this game. He outdid his performance from last Tuesday, finishing 6 IP with 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and just 2 K, and he kept the ball in the yard. He would have pitched the 7th, but there was a torrential, heat-wave breaking downpour that delayed the game for an hour.
At that point, the Twins were up 9-1, thanks to an offensive onslaught that saw every starter get at least one H on the way to accumulating 19 as a team. Kubel hit his 2nd GS of the season in the 3rd. Young and Jim Thome went back-to-back in the 6th. Valencia had his 2nd straight 3-H game. Joining him with at least 3 knocks were Casilla, Kubel and Nick Punto. Even Drew Butera had a multi-hit game.
Alas, the series ended on a sour note when Nick Blackburn came in to mop up in his 1st appearance out of the bullpen. He got through the 8th OK, but was touched for 3 R in the 9th, leading to another ugly line overall. I still think he'd be better off working through his troubles as a starter at Rochester.
The Twins did what a good team ought to do when facing a very bad team, even on the road. They won 3 of 4 by a combined score of 24-9. It's not so hard to see how the Tigers and White Sox went on their runs in June, is it? Now the Twins get to enjoy that poor competition while the Tigers are foundering against the AL East. The Sox finished their road trip by dropping the last 2 games against the A's, bringing the Twins back within 1 game of 1st place. Bring on the Royals.