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    Another Series Win - Homers Power Orioles 6-to-0

    Written by Mike Laws

    Another series win

    Homers power O’s to wide margin over Twins

    Orioles 6, Minnesota 0

    The start of Sunday’s rubber match in Minnesota presented a little wrinkle in the storyline of the series thus far: Where games one and two were all about the doubles, this time it was the double plays that set the tone.

    Neither team’s starter looked terrific in the early going — Scott Diamond allowed back-to-back singles (Nick Markakis, Manny Machado) to start the game, while Wei-Yin Chen, having difficulty locating the zone in his first inning of work, coughed up a single to leadoff man Brian Dozier, then fell behind 3-0 to No. 2 hitter Joe Mauer — but both hurlers would enjoy a timely twin-killing: Diamond when Adam Jones tagged a sharp grounder right at third baseman Trevor Plouffe, Chen (a touch more unconventionally) when Ron Gardenhire’s aggressive full-count hit-and-run call backfired, and Mauer swung through a fastball, and Chris Snyder gunned Dozier down.

    The difference? Chen would go on to strike out the next batter he faced — the Twins’ most prolific home-run hitter, Josh Willingham — on three pitches, while Diamond had to do battle with the Orioles’ primary power threat … and lost that battle. Chris Davis absolutely crushed Diamond’s outer-half fastball to dead center, where Minnesota’s Wilkin Ramirez gave chase for a dutiful couple steps before stopping to take in just what a sight the shot was: It cleared the wall, then it cleared the patch of grass between the wall and the batter’s matte backdrop, out there, hitting the backdrop and falling to the grass. Holy …

    Anyway, that staked Chen to a 2-0 lead, and the O’s weren’t done, not by a damn sight. Let’s get on to the bullet points:

    • Happily, both the run support and the defensive help continued for Chen (which, with any luck, reverses both relevant trends, with respect to games the Taiwanese southpaw starts). In the second the O’s played a little station-to-station/situational ball, with an Alexi Casilla swinging bunt moving J.J. Hardy, who’d singled with one away, up to second for Snyder, who took a strike before yanking a single into left, bringing a hard-charging Hardy around to score. 3-0, O’s. And while Chen didn’t impress to begin the Minnesota second, giving in to Justin Morneau following an extended at-bat, Morneau’s wallop to right would carom off the very top of the wall — and then fall right to a waiting Markakis, who delivered a strike to second, the throw beating Morneau easily. And so went the second straight inning in which the Oriole starter, though he’d been perhaps less than impressive, and given up a hit, nonetheless had to face just the three hitters; Chen needed just four additional pitches to retire the side. 
    • In fact, come to think of it, giving up a single but nothing else seemed to suit Chen just fine, in this one — he did exactly that for his next three innings, making five straight. And while allowing leadoff men aboard isn’t the greatest habit to get into, probably, at the very least it’s now wildly apparent that the guy doesn’t mind working out of the stretch. Would that this whole staff felt the same … Anyhoo, sadly, Chen never got the chance to try for additional statistically improbable feats — he left the ballgame after the fifth, suffering from what’s being called a right oblique strain. Which is, by far, the worst thing to happen in this ballgame.
    • Meantime, the offense continued to provide for the plucky lefty. Adam Jones homered on a frozen rope in the third (the ball, which never rose higher than about forty feet off the ground, bounded wildly off the railing atop the wall in left, and actually wound up in the second deck). In the fifth, following a Markakis walk and Machado double (what else is new?), the Twins opted to issue a one-out intentional pass to Jones — a somewhat curious strategy, being as Davis would be coming up with the bases juiced, and hadn’t exactly looked stumped by Diamond so far, though here he did about the least amount of damage he could (nice of you, Crush), and rolled into an RBI groundout. 5-0.
    • Steve Pearce would add to the tally with his homer into the Target Field bullpen area to lead off the sixth, but it wasn’t as if the visitors needed the extra run. Or, really, any of the extra runs. Not with Tommy Hunter (one inning), Darren O’Day (one and a third) and Brian Matusz (two-thirds) spelling the injured Chen, and keeping the shutout intact (O’Day’s totals, in fact, would’ve been even lovelier had Nate McLouth not lost two balls in the mid-afternoon sun — with both, par for the course, being generously ruled hits). But still better — and this has to be good news, given his trials and tribulations in 2013 — was Pedro Strop, who recorded, in order, in the bottom of the ninth, a looking strikeout, a pop-out, and a swinging K. Here’s hoping that that carries on going forward, and that the extra rest provided by this week’s forgiving schedule helps Chen heal up. 6-0, O’s, is your final..

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