Baltimore bullpen struggles, Orioles get swept away in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS - Baltimore's bullpen has been the hardest to score against in the major leagues during the last 10 weeks. It took a rare stumble when Bud Norris faced the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
Norris gave up three runs - including two homers - in the sixth inning, Chaz Roe allowed two more runs in the seventh and the Twins completed a three-game sweep with a 5-3 win over the Orioles.
Manny Machado and Chris Davis hit back-to-back homers for Baltimore in the eighth inning, but Glen Perkins pitched a perfect ninth for the Twins for his 28th save in 28 attempts. The Orioles, who have lost six of their last seven games, combined for 10 runs in the six losses.
"We're just not giving our pitchers much margin for error," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Leading 1-0 in the sixth, Norris (2-9) walked Eric Fryer with one out, and Brian Dozier went deep for the team-leading 18th time this year to put the Twins in front. Joe Mauer followed with a full-count home run to left-center for a 3-1 lead.
"Dozier's been swinging a real hot bat," Norris said. "I still had two strikes in the count and I thought I had him the pitch before, but, unfortunately, he punished a mistake that I made. With Mauer, I left a 3-2 slider that he put a really good swing on."
From April 29 through Tuesday, the Orioles had the best relief ERA in the majors at 2.25.
After going 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts last season, Norris was 2-7 with a 6.79 ERA in 11 starts this year before being sent to the bullpen last week. He also missed nearly a month with bronchitis.
"I'm just trying to get comfortable. It's going to be an adjustment period and I just want to do my part," Norris said. "I feel bad about today. I don't want to let my team down. It's kind of tough to swallow."
Showalter said he thought Norris pitched well in his lone previous relief appearance Saturday, taking the loss after allowing an earned run in 2 2-3 innings at the Chicago White Sox.
That's little consolation to Norris.
"They've all been frustrating as of late," he said.
Minnesota starter Tommy Milone (5-1) stayed unbeaten in seven starts since being brought back from Triple-A Rochester at the beginning of June, striking out five in seven innings to lower his ERA to 2.84.
Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez pitched five scoreless innings, but he needed a season-high 110 pitches to finish them.
The Twins went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position against Jimenez, who gave up seven hits and three walks while striking out five. Eddie Rosario ended innings in all three of his at-bats against the right-hander, striking out with the bases loaded, popping up with men at second and third and grounding out with runners at the corners.
"It was very hard, but I got out of it. At the same time I got really tired," said Jimenez, who has allowed one run in 20 innings over his last three starts.
TRA INER'S ROOM
Orioles 1B Christian Walker, who was the DH, was recalled before the game from Triple-A Norfolk to take the roster spot of RHP Kevin Gausman, who went down for one start to keep the All-Star break from throwing him off schedule. Walker was then sent back to Norfolk after the game. OF Nolan Reimold is expected to be activated off the paternity list before Friday's game.
In the opener of a three-game series, Chris Tillman is scheduled to start for the Orioles Friday, opposite Tanner Roark of the visiting Nationals.