Provided with an opportunity to affect the AL Central race, the Baltimore Orioles have taken full advantage.
Looking to build on consecutive victories over the teams battling for first in that division, the Orioles try to continue playing the spoiler role when they take on the Twins (90-63) on Saturday at Camden Yards.
On Thursday, Baltimore knocked off Central leader Detroit in a makeup game, then returned the favor to the Tigers with Friday’s win over the Twins, who are 1 1/2 games back.
“I think you can see the intensity level pick up a little bit when you’re playing teams that are in the race,” Baltimore’s Brian Roberts said. “It’s not that you’re not trying in Tampa or wherever, but the motivation factor is a little bit more difficult down there. For us to come out and play as well we have against contending teams, it’s great. We’ll make them work for whatever they’re going to get.”
That’s more intensity than the Twins had hoped for from the 68-86 Orioles, but Baltimore isn’t likely to keep either Minnesota or Detroit out of the playoffs. The Twins remained 5 1/2 games up on Chicago for the wild card despite Friday’s defeat.
Minnesota, though, would like to have home-field advantage in the opening round of the postseason that comes with a division title, as its 50-24 home mark is the best in baseball.
“Not a good night, not a good loss for us,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The 25-year-old Baker is coming off a 6-1 victory over Cleveland on Sunday, his first career win over the Indians, and will be looking for his first victory over the Orioles, whom he has never faced.
“I’ve been trying to throw to contact,” said Baker, who has won two of his last three starts, allowing two runs in 11 innings. “That’s one thing I started to do when I got sent to Rochester. Why try to make the perfect pitch? I know what kind of fielders we have behind me. I know what I need to do. Make the hitters hit the ball on the ground and get themselves out.”
Baker will be opposed by the Orioles’ Erik Bedard (15-9, 3.62), who’s won three straight starts and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 14 innings over the last two outings.
The left-hander dominated the Devil Rays on Monday, giving up one run and four hits with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-1 win.
Bedard is 0-2 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts against Minnesota. He allowed two runs and five hits in five innings of a 4-0 loss to the Twins on June 11, his only start against them this season.
Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada has a career-high 205 hits and will look to pull closer to Cal Ripken’s franchise record of 211, set in 1983.