BALTIMORE – It's called Camden Yards, a ballpark that is normally wonderfully welcoming to the Twins, and a site they hoped would serve as their launching pad up the standings.
But this year, for these Twins? Call it Camden Graveyards.
Mitch Garver, Rob Refsnyder and Caleb Thielbar all went down because of a variety of injuries. The patchwork Twins had trouble making defensive plays. And the Orioles, of all people, made the Twins look like the offensively challenged bottom-feeders that Baltimore has been most of the season.
The Orioles, who hadn't won a series from the Twins in five years, who never managed back-to-back wins in May, who had not won a series in their iconic home park since mid-September, left the Twins for roadkill on Wednesday, dismissing them with a 6-3 loss to take the last two games of the three-game series. The Twins head to Kansas City for four games facing an 11-game deficit in the AL Central that feels about twice that large.
"It's our job to not let the next injury or thing that may come up become overwhelming, and let it put any kind of damper on what we're doing," manager Rocco Baldelli said after the Twins dropped a series to a team that had lost 14 consecutive games. "We push on and push forward. We have to keep the environment as a whole positive, and keep guys enthusiastic [about] going out there to do their jobs."
Enthusiasm seemed in short supply Wednesday — except among Dobnak Nation, the three dozen or so raucous West Virginians who wore No. 68 to see their favorite Twins righthander. What they saw was a continuation of Tuesday's loss: The Orioles putting a runner on base every inning — in 17 of their 18 turns at bat over the last two games — and bringing enough of them home to outlast the Twins.
"I left 27 tickets today. And that doesn't include everybody else that bought their own tickets and came down today," Randy Dobnak said of his friends and family, five dozen of whom his wife hosted in a Camden Yards suite Monday. Dobnak lives just over an hour from Baltimore, "so it was pretty cool to have them out here. For most of them, it was the first time seeing me pitch in person."
What they saw was Dobnak putting the first three Orioles he faced on base, then escaping with a line-drive double play and a pop fly. Critical strikeouts served the same purpose the next two innings, but Dobnak's luck ran out in the fourth when rookie second baseman Nick Gordon's double-play relay sailed over Willians Astudillo's head, allowing D.J. Stewart to score.
Stewart caused more trouble an inning later after a two-out walk to Freddy Galvis. The .207 hitter dribbled a ball down the first-base line that bounced foul just before Willians Astudillo could save it fair, then lined a two-strike slider in the middle of the plate over the right field wall.
"I hate walking guys. Normally bad things are going to happen when that happens," Dobnak said. "And a bad thing happened."
Stewart is batting only .207, but three of his six home runs and seven of his 16 RBI have come against the Twins.
Baltimore poured it on in the seventh inning, after Theilbar experienced tightness in his groin and was forced to leave the game. Alexander Colome relieved, and once again made matters worse, this time giving up a three-run blast over the center field fence to Ryan Mountcastle.
The Twins offense could be summed up in two words: Ryan Jeffers. Making his return to the majors after a month in St. Paul, Jeffers pounded a Matt Harvey slider more than 410 feet to center field in the second inning. Jeffers added an RBI triple in the eighth, then scored on a sacrifice fly, but after a pair of walks, Nelson Cruz popped out as the tying run.
"Ryan looked good," Baldelli said, happy to be talking about something other than injuries. "If you let [injuries] become the narrative of everything going on, it'll become tough. … That's the challenge we have to take every day."