BALTIMORE – One first baseman is off to a start that Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Mickey Mantle would envy. The other entered Saturday’s game having driven in as many runs this year as Justin Timberlake and Hillary Clinton.
Yeah, that zero next to his name was beginning to bug Justin Morneau.
“It was nice to start filling up some of those columns,” Morneau said Saturday after he smacked a Jim Johnson changeup into center field, scoring Aaron Hicks with the go-ahead run in the ninth inning and helping the Twins win in Camden Yards for the first time since 2011, 6-5 over the Orioles. “I’m just 15 behind [Chris] Davis.”
Actually 16, since the Orioles’ record-shattering first baseman collected an RBI almost by accident, on a pop fly that landed just beyond shortstop. But that represented progress for the Twins, too. Davis, who had more RBI through four games than any hitter in history, failed to hit a home run for the first time all season, halting his record power streak at four games.
Instead, it was Chris Parmelee providing the long home run of the night, and Morneau, whose lack of run production has been only slightly less amazing than Davis’ surplus of it, knocking in the game-winning run to give the Twins a 3-2 record.
About time, too, he said.
“I’m a middle-of-the-order hitter, that’s what I’m here for. That’s what I take pride in — driving in runs and trying to score as many runs as I can,” said Morneau, who until last season had never failed to collect an RBI in the first four games of the year. “I looke⅔d up there ... “
And he saw zeroes. But no more.
The zeroes that the Twins treasured Saturday were provided by reliever Josh Roenicke, who held a streaking Baltimore offense to just one hit over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Glen Perkins retired all three hitters he faced in the ninth, including Manny Machado on a sliding catch by Parmelee, to earn the Twins’ first victory in Baltimore since April 21, 2011.
“That was a big performance by [Roenicke],” Gardenhire said, especially since he didn’t want to go back to Casey Fien and Tyler Robertson after their lengthy stints Friday. “We were hoping to maybe get two innings out of him. He came in after [his] second inning and we said, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘I’m good, I’m great.’ So that third inning was huge for us because of the state of our bullpen. ... He saved some arms and saved the ballgame.”
And got noticed by teammates, too.
“He’s new to us, so I don’t know how many times he’s gone out there and thrown three innings of relief,” Morneau said of Roenicke, who was claimed off waivers from Colorado last fall. “That’s impressive. For him to do that, save the other guys, that’ll be big. [And] if we can keep adding guys like that, Terry [Ryan, the general manager] making those nice pickups, that’ll go a long way to help us win ballgames.”
So will knocking out the opposing starter, which the Twins did for the first time. Chris Tillman gave up five runs in 3⅔ innings on the same day he came off the disabled list. An abdominal strain had sidelined Tillman, a nine-game winner a year ago, since March 25, and it became evident early on that the layoff had affected his command; the Twins scored a run in the second and four more in the third, the last two runs scoring when Parmelee deposited an 86-mph cutter deep into the right-center stands, his first home run of the season.
“It was 3-0 and I was just looking for something over the plate that i could drive. I had the green light,” Parmelee said.
But the right fielder was almost as excited about the play he made in the ninth inning, taking away a hit from Machado with a full-speed sliding catch.