Twins walked off by Orioles in series finale, spiral to fourth straight loss

BALTIMORE — It’s early. It’s still April. But the Twins know they can’t go on like this. If they do, it’s going to get late on them quickly.

If ever the Twins needed Pablo López to step up and be their stopper, to pitch like their ace, it was Wednesday. They entered the day on a three-game slide, having given up seven and 11 runs in the past two days in Baltimore, losing two relatively non-competitive games.

And López?

He did everything the Twins could have asked of him, and it still didn’t matter.

Despite a performance from their starting pitcher that put the Twins in a good position to salvage one win in Baltimore, the Twins were unable to do so. Cedric Mullins connected with a Griffin Jax changeup left over the heart of the plate in the ninth inning and put it in the outfield stands, sending the Orioles to a 4-2 walk-off victory over the Twins.

“If you keep telling yourself, ‘It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen,’ then you wake up and it’s July, it’s June and then it might be too late,” López said. “… I think just understanding that it might be early but we have to turn things quick.”

The Twins (6-11) played from behind for much of the day. Gunnar Henderson, the first batter of the game, took a López fastball out to right-center field to give the Orioles (12-6) a lead they would hold until the late innings.

López then settled in very nicely, getting 13 swings and misses in a six-inning effort that saw him position his teammates well to snap out of their losing skid.

“When you get a great start from someone when you need it and, of course, against a good team, you want to capitalize,” manager Rocco Baldelli said.

And even more so when you have a lead late, as the Twins did when they scored a pair of runs in the seventh thanks to RBI singles from Austin Martin and Kyle Farmer. An aggressive send by third base coach Tommy Watkins helped deliver the Twins their first run of the game.

The Twins then opted to take their ace out of the game — it was a tough decision Baldelli called “not the easiest of calls” — and minutes later, Anthony Santander tied the game off Steven Okert in the bottom of the inning.

Two innings later, Jax allowed a single to Ryan Mountcastle and then left a changeup over the plate that Mullins mashed, sending the Twins spiraling to another loss.

“I just think there’s a lot of tension and pressure that everybody’s put on themselves right now,” Jax said. “Thankfully it’s still April, and there’s a lot of time to make up some room. But when you look around and there’s a lot of key guys missing, a lot of guys may be, myself included, trying to do too much at times and pick up those roles of the guys that aren’t necessarily here.”

Jax was pitching with no breathing room because the offense, which has sputtered in the early going of the season, finished with just five hits and was unable to do much of anything against Albert Suárez, called up as an injury replacement on Wednesday, or the Orioles bullpen.

And so the Twins will return home, regroup during Thursday’s off day and keep trying to pull themselves up — because that’s all they can do.

“It feels quite hard. It feels like no matter what you try, nothing is smooth, nothing is working like you want,” Baldelli said. “ … We play these games, we’re ahead late in the game, and we lose — that can be frustrating. And that’s it. It does feel like it’s not easy, but it’s up to us. We have to figure it out, not have anyone else figure it out. It’s up to us.”

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