Through the Twins’ bumpy first six weeks, the bullpen has been their strength, picking up some spotty starting pitching, protecting an offense as cold as the weather. And Oswaldo Arcia has emerged as one of the Twins’ most exciting hitters.
Role reversal can be such a letdown.
The Twins lineup provided six runs in the first five innings Friday night, and Mike Pelfrey held the Orioles without one in that same stretch. But Baltimore amassed a season-high 18 hits — half of them off the Twins’ often-unassailable relievers — enabling the Orioles to rally from that six-run deficit to subdue the streaking Twins 9-6 in 10 innings at Target Field.
Manny Machado had three hits, including a 10th-inning single off Anthony Swarzak that broke the 6-6 tie, as Baltimore ended the Twins’ three-game winning streak.
And it might not have happened if Arcia hadn’t reminded Twins fans that he is still a rookie. The Venezuelan slugger had two of the Twins’ 11 hits, keeping alive his eight-game hitting streak, and drove in a run. But he missed a catchable fly ball at the right-field wall that turned into one of Baltimore’s seven doubles and sparked the Orioles rally.
Holding a 6-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning, Pelfrey gave up a leadoff double to Nick Markakis — “probably the worst pitch I threw all night,” Pelfrey said — and after a groundout, faced Chris Davis. The Orioles slugger lifted a ball that initially appeared to be headed to the right-field seats, but it came down at the base of the wall. Arcia raced back, but appeared flustered by his proximity to the wall and took an awkward jump as he ran out of room.
The ball glanced off his glove, bounced off the padding and rolled to center fielder Aaron Hicks, a double (one of three on the night by Davis) that scored Baltimore’s first run — and sounded the charge in the Orioles dugout.
“He just has to learn — you’ve got to be a rounded player, got to be able to do it all,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Arcia’s failed catch. “That wasn’t an easy play. It was a high fly. He just didn’t get all the way to the wall and wasn’t able to catch it.”
Pelfrey retired Matt Wieters next, a flyout that would have wrapped up a sixth shutout inning had Arcia held on. Instead, Pelfrey had to face J.J. Hardy, who doubled, and Chris Dickerson, who also doubled. That’s three runs instead of zero, and it ended Pelfrey’s night once he retired Alexi Casilla.
“I didn’t feel that good,” said Pelfrey, though he bottled up the Baltimore offense through five innings. “My offspeed stuff wasn’t very good. The thing that kept me in the ballgame and allowed me to go as far as I did was my sinker. It was really good.”
Josh Roenicke and Swarzak have been really good this season, too, but neither could stop the Orioles offense once it got going. Roenicke, who had given up three runs all season, gave up three more in a third of an inning, though he too was hurt by a misplay; Trevor Plouffe fielded a slow roller by Machado and threw it past Justin Morneau at first. But two singles and two doubles, the last by Davis to tie the score, made it a fast night for Roenicke.
Swarzak had to handle the 10th, and gave up four hits, scoring three runs.
“You’ve got to remember the offense over there, too. They can run some hitters up at you and they can really ambush you,” Gardenhire said in defense of his shorthanded bullpen. “They’ve given us a lot of innings. You’ve just got to go with what you have sometimes, and it just didn’t work out.”