Twins trail Cleveland by 2.5 games heading into break
MINNEAPOLIS — The Baltimore Orioles ended the first half of the season playing the way they had expected to for all of 2017.
They’ll have to do that and more if they want to make up ground in the rugged AL East.
Adam Jones homered twice and drove in five runs to lead a 15-hit attack and the Orioles defeated the Minnesota Twins 11-5 on Sunday.
“Our style is our pitcher attacks the zone, our defense plays well behind him, and we get some longballs,” Jones said. “This series we’ve been able to do a few of those things.”
Ruben Tejada and Seth Smith each had three hits for the Orioles, who won their second straight after losing seven of eight.
After reaching the playoffs three times in the past five seasons, Baltimore enters the break 42-46 and scrambling to play catch-up in the AL’s most competitive division.
“We finished on a high note. There’s a lot of good things that happened,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I try to dwell on that too, but also have a sense of reality about some things that are going to have to get better.”
Max Kepler had a double and a triple and Robbie Grossman drove in two runs for the Twins, who had their first winning homestand (4-3) since the first week in April.
Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4) worked five innings for his third win in his past five starts.
Jones put the Orioles on top 3-0 just four batters into the game when he drove a hanging slider into the second deck above the bullpens in left-center.
Kyle Gibson (5-7) had issued a four-pitch walk to Seth Smith to start the game, and All-Star Jonathan Schoop singled with one out to set up Jones’ 444-foot shot.
“It was a slider that was up,” Jones said. “I’m not going to take that too often.”
Jones also homered to lead off Baltimore’s four-run fifth. Catcher Caleb Joseph’s two-run bloop single off the end of the bat to short right-center was the other big hit in the fifth inning.
“When you get guys on base, you start creating havoc out there, things can happen. Then a flare in the Bermuda Triangle scores two,” Joseph said.
“It’s little things like that that start compounding and that’s what we’ve been able to do the last four, five years. We’re looking to try to get back to that.”
The Twins did all their damage against Jimenez in the second inning, when the Orioles’ starter hit a batter and walked three, leading to four runs. But Jimenez didn’t think he was missing the zone by much — or at all, actually.
“We watched the video and all those pitches were in the strike zone,” Jimenez said. “I don’t know what happened. I have respect for the umpires who are out there because, just like us, they’re trying to do the best they can.”
Joseph said plate umpire Lance Barrett had a high zone that stayed consistent throughout the game for both teams.
“You have to adjust, and I thought he did a nice job adjusting and put up some zeroes for us,” Joseph said.
Jimenez threw 43 pitches before finally getting the third out of the inning, but he wasn’t upset about Barrett’s zone after the game.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I know he’s trying to do his best out there. He just had a tough day.”
Twins center fielder Zack Granite made the most of his first major league start. Granite saved at least one run with a leaping grab at the wall to take away a possible extra-base hit from third baseman Manny Machado in the fourth inning.
“I talked to (Byron Buxton) before the game, and he was telling me the ball flies here,” said Granite, who was called up from Triple-A Rochester on Saturday. “I had a decent jump at it, kind of timed it pretty good.”
The catch came with runners on first and second and one out in the fourth. The lead runner advanced to third base, but Gibson got out of the inning without giving up a run thanks to the rookie’s big play.
“I’ve made some pretty big catches in my life,” Granite said. “But on a stage like this, that was cool.”
Minnesota reached the All-Star break at 45-43. It’s only the second time in the past seven seasons the Twins have been above .500 at the break.
“You look at the positives: the competitiveness, the resiliency, we showed improvement in areas that we hoped to get better in,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
“But you always think there’s another level to get to. I think we’re going to have to keep finding that and pushing forward.
“The reality is we’re a couple games over .500. It’s better than where we were last year, but we’ve got to play better if we want to stick around this thing.
Orioles: First baseman Chris Davis, who has been out since June 13 with a strained right oblique, took batting practice before Sunday’s game. He’s scheduled to begin a brief rehab assignment on Monday at Class A Frederick. Showalter said he expects Davis to be ready to rejoin the team after the All-Star break.
Twins: Molitor said LHP Craig Breslow would spend the All-Star break at home in Boston before reporting to Triple-A Rochester to begin a rehab assignment. Breslow has been on the DL since June 28 due to left thoracic rib soreness. … Catcher Jason Castro was scratched from the starting lineup on Sunday due to neck cramps.
Orioles: After the All-Star Game, the Orioles return to action on Friday when they kick off a nine-game homestand with a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. The team has not announced its rotation for the series, but Showalter indicated that he was leaning toward RHP Kevin Gausman (5-7, 5.85 ERA) getting the start on Friday.
Twins: Minnesota opens the second half with a weekend series at Houston. RHP Jose Berrios (8-2, 3.53) is scheduled to start the opener on Friday.