Twins knock out Orioles again in 4-3 win

The recently anointed Birdland Gas Co. entered the series against the Twins as arguably the best bullpen in baseball. They left Saturday’s game against the Twins victim of two consecutive forfeits

On Friday, after giving up a game-winning home run to Byron Buxton, closer Jorge Lopez made his second save in as many days when Jorge Polanco homered to lead in ninth. Lopez was a player who brought so much joy to Orioles fans earlier this year, as his unlikely rise from lowest starter to closest to the elite was one of the best stories of 2022. Still, as Jose Miranda’s winning single flew over Tyler Nevin and into left field, Lopez was once again the only source of shock and disappointment for Os fans.

The bullpen as a whole was not dominant Saturday afternoon. Dillon Tate allowed two hits in the 8th, which ultimately resulted in the Twins’ second inning when Felix Bautista surrendered a sacrifice steal to Carlos Correa. After coming out of the eighth with the lead still intact, it looked like the Orioles could still cling on to victory. However, a match that started with an hour-long rain delay ultimately ended with great sadness for Birdland.

Lopez’s blast save overshadowed an incredible pitching performance from starter Jordan Lyles. Going into the game, the Orioles seemed to be on the back foot when it came to the starters matchup. Lyles had suffered on the road all season, topping a 6.47 road ERA in nine starts. Combine that with the Twins having their best starter in Sonny Gray, and it looked like Minnesota would have the early advantage.

However, Lyles turned in, without a doubt, his best performance as an Orioles to date. Most of the 12-year-old veteran’s success has come down to his ability to keep the ball on the ground. Of the 19 Twins Lyle has struck out, 14 outs have come on pitches in the bottom third of the strike zone or lower. It wasn’t just a pitch that Lyles held back, either. His first strikeout came from a low curveball to Jorge Polanco in the second. He also hit Carlos Correa and Max Kepler in the third, and Gary Sanchez in the fifth, on sliders that started in the zone and then came out of it. His fastball even came into play, knocking out Gio Urshela and Polanco on low radiators in the fifth and seventh.

The streak that best optimized Lyles’ success on Saturday was the Houdini act he performed in the third inning. A single from Gio Urshela and a double from Luis Arraez meant Lyles was watching a second and third jam with no release. The Orioles ace then knocked Byron Buxton out of the shorts, before Correa and Kepler struck out. The act of escape fueled Lyles the rest of the way. Starting with Buxton’s popout, Lyles has pulled out 13 straight twins, spanning third through seventh.

The only Twins hitter who had real success against Lyles on Saturday was second-year outfielder Nick Gordon. The center fielder picked a weak change in the second for the Twins’ first hit. In the fourth, he threw a curveball under the box deep into left field, only for Anthony Santander to make an outstanding catch just off the wall. Gordon would then end Lyles’ day in the seventh, homering to center on his 100th pitch of the day – a knee fastball.

Gray entered the game with a 2.17 ERA, after a seven-inning shutout start at Cleveland. However, the Orioles found early success against Gray’s best pitch – the lead – propelling the Birds to an early lead. Ryan Mountcastle turned a lead from the first pitch into a double to lead the second. Tyler Nevin then put a backswing on a lead three batters later to drive Mountcastle home – and claimed his own double.

Gray’s other positive throws — his fastball and curveball — didn’t necessarily fare better. Anthony Santander homered to right field in the third on a rising fastball, extending the lead to 2-0. Rougned Odor then threw a curveball into left field for a brace to lead in fourth. The Orioles would get another run from the lead, as Matero sent a lead down the center for a sacrificial fly, scoring Odor.

Overall, it was only the second time Gray allowed three runs this season. The Orioles’ six hits were also tied for the second total allowed by Gray this year. Perhaps Gray’s struggles were down to his drum mate on Saturday. Dating back to their time with the Yankees, Gray and Gary Sanchez’s battery had combined for a 5.89 ERA. Giving up three runs in five innings means the pair have effectively reduced their combined ERA, but not enough to help the Twins early on.

Minnesota’s win reversed a recent trend when it comes to coming from behind to win. Since early June, the Twins are 2-11 in games where the opponent has scored first. In games where the Twins have scored first – since 6/1 – they were 12-4. So basically nothing about Saturday’s game made sense.

The Orioles’ loss drops the Birds to 4-5 on their 10-game road trip. While a win on Sunday and a .500 road trip would certainly sound positive on paper, the sour taste of this series in Minneapolis is sure to linger. Hope is always reborn with the 2022 Orioles, and maybe we’ll get a full beating of the Twins on Sunday to help us all forget.

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