Orioles-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The Baltimore Orioles have been plagued by poor pitching recently, but they hope Wei-Yin Chen can help them build off one of their better performances of this month.

Chen takes the mound Thursday as the visiting Orioles try to salvage a split of a four-game series versus the AL-worst Minnesota Twins.

After leading the AL East in early June, Baltimore has fallen 10 games back of New York. The Orioles (47-44) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday, just their second win in eight games and eighth in 25 contests.

Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Tommy Hunter pitched into the eighth - the longest outing by a Baltimore starter since Chris Tillman went into the ninth at Seattle on July 4.

"We needed this win badly, just as a psyche," said Jones, who homered for the second straight game to give him 22 for the season.

"We know we can play good baseball, and we haven't been. It's a testament to always grinding. That's what you have to do."

Poor pitching has been a big reason for Baltimore's slide. Tillman didn't make it out of the first inning Monday, then Zach Britton failed to record an out in the fifth Tuesday. Orioles starters have a 5.47 ERA over the last 25 games - nearly a full run higher than over their first 66 contests.

Baltimore will turn to Chen (7-5, 3.80 ERA) as it tries to win back-to-back games for the second time in the last month. Chen is the only pitcher who has remained in the Orioles' rotation the whole season, with others battling injuries and ineffectiveness.

He is winless in his last five starts, although he is coming off one of his better outings. The left-hander gave up one run and two hits in six innings of an 8-6, 13-inning win over Detroit on Saturday after going 0-3 with a 5.96 ERA over his previous four starts.

"I wanted to go deep and be consistent, and after the first inning I felt really strong," Chen told the Orioles' official website through his interpreter. "I finished strong. And I just feel great that I can help the team to get a win."

He'll face a Minnesota team that totaled 25 runs in the first two games of this series before going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position Wednesday. Joe Mauer finished 0 for 4 after batting .400 over his previous 23 games.

The Twins (38-53) will hand the ball to Cole De Vries (2-2, 4.37), who was shelled his last time out, giving up a season-high seven runs and three homers Saturday in five innings of a 9-3 loss to Oakland.

"This is just one of those outings that wasn't very good," De Vries said. "We all have them. That's why I'm going to try to make my next one as good as I can."

The rookie right-hander had posted a 2.57 ERA in his first five major league starts. This will be his first time facing Baltimore.

It's unclear if Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire will be back in the dugout after leaving Wednesday's game with a stomach illness. Bench coach Scott Ullger took over and Gardenhire is expected to be fine.

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