The Twins seek their fourth straight win overall and their eighth in a row against the Orioles on Saturday night when the teams continue their four-game series.
Two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana surrendered two first-inning home runs and the Twins found themselves trailing by four after six innings Friday. Minnesota, though, scored three times in the seventh to knock out starter Jeremy Guthrie, and took the lead for good with two runs in the eighth against Baltimore’s beleaguered bullpen.
Morneau’s homer, his 29th, ended a drought that spanned career highs of 28 games and 108 at-bats for the reigning AL MVP. The win also pulled the Twins within 5 1/2 games of division-leading Cleveland.
“It’s fun to be chasing guys, to be close enough where you get a look at them,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We haven’t played good enough for everyone to be talking about us. We haven’t earned it. We still have a chance to earn our way back into this thing, and that’s by playing good games.”
The Orioles have allowed 31 runs in the seventh inning or later during their losing streak. Friday loss also was Baltimore’s 14th this season when leading after seven innings.
“I didn’t think we were going to go through this thing without having a bump in the road,” Trembley said. “You’ve got to be realistic about the big picture in this situation. You never want to go through this, but you’re going to do it and you’re going to have to deal with it the best you can.”
Baltimore’s Kevin Millar singled in the fourth inning to extend his club-record run of reaching base by hit, walk or hit by pitch to 51 games—a streak that began on June 20. Teammate Ramon Hernandez, though, is 1-for-34 over his last 10 games, dropping his average 30 points to .237.
Minnesota’s Matt Garza (2-4, 3.30 ERA) hopes to rebound from his worst start of the season. The second-year right-hander lasted only 2 1-3 innings Monday in a 9-4 loss to Seattle, allowing a season-high seven runs and nine hits.
Garza seems to pitch better on the road. He’s 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA in four starts at home, but 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA in four starts away from the Metrodome.
Overall, Garza is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in two career road starts against the Orioles.
Tejada is 3-for-5 with a pair of solo home runs against Garza.
With Brian Burres moved to the bullpen and Garrett Olson optioned to the minors, Radhames Liz makes his major league debut for the Orioles. The 24-year-old right-hander—who has never pitched above Double-A—has emerged as one of Baltimore’s top pitching prospects after going 11-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 25 starts, including a no-hitter, for Bowie.
“The reports that I’ve gotten are that he’s shown a lot of improvement,” Trembley told the Orioles’ official Web site. “I think we’re getting him at the right time because he’s coming off some successful outings. I think now is the time to give him a shot.”
In 137 innings, Liz has allowed 101 hits and struck out an Eastern League-leading 161, but has also walked 70. The Orioles’ pitching staff is third in the majors with 515 walks issued this season.