BALTIMORE -- The Twins scored four runs in the first two innings and held on for a 4-3 win, completing an impressive series sweep over the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Camden Yards.
The victory keeps Minnesota (25-18) in first place in the American League Central as it cruises along with four consecutive wins and its second three-game sweep of the season. Baltimore, which suffered its first losing homestand at 2-4, has dropped 10 of its past 13 games.
"It was a really exciting series," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Every game kind of took on a different look, from a really nice comeback to start us off and [Ervin Santana's] masterpiece. Today, we kind of started fast and had to hang on. It was a little frustrating that we couldn't take advantage and maybe increase the cushion somewhat.
"... It feels good, there's no question about that. You have to give these guys credit for coming out on the road here and finding a way to beat the Orioles three days in a row."
The Twins jumped on Orioles starter Chris Tillman, who labored early, with a one-out, two-run single from Kennys Vargas in the first inning. Eduardo Escobar followed, punching a ball into center field to score another run. Minnesota increased its lead to 4-0 with red-hot Max Kepler's RBI double in the second.
Tillman, fresh off his best outing this season, went five innings and gave up four earned runs on nine hits and a pair of walks to increase his season ERA to 4.43.
"A little bit of everything early in the game," Tillman said. "I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to early, and every adjustment I tried to make I felt like it got worse. Later in the game, I was able to make an adjustment and able to make some better pitches."
Twins starter Jose Berrios went 6 1/3 innings and held Baltimore to four hits --three of which were homers -- in his third outing of the season. J.J. Hardy hit a solo homer in the third, while Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop went deep in the seventh to end Berrios' afternoon and bring the O's deficit to one.
"Offensively, it's kind of been boom or bust, and that's a challenge," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the offense. "You've got to pitch real well. They kept the solo home run in play today, and usually when pitchers do that, you usually give yourself a chance to win. They've been pitching real well out of the bullpen, and we got to see that, unfortunately."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Berrios escapes: Rarely challenged this season, the Twins righty got himself into a rare jam in the fourth inning. After Trey Mancini worked a full-count walk to load the bases, Berrios got Schoop to swing at a low offering, an unsuccessful check-swing that got him out of the inning unscathed.
"It's the first time the whole year I've struggled like that in an inning," Berrios said. "When [pitching coach] Neil [Allen] came out, he said to just trust myself, trust my stuff and to just throw the ball down in the zone, and that's what I did. And we were able to get out of the inning." More >
Down goes Davis: The O's slugger, who had already homered, strolled to the plate in a one-run game in the eighth inning, with two men on and two outs. But Davis couldn't make the Twins pay for second baseman Brian Dozier's error, as Taylor Rogers sent him down looking at strike three.
"That's a tough at-bat for a lefty," Davis said. "Those are the kind of guys you're going to get late in the game. If I could have gone back and done it all over, if I would have taken a hack at the 3-1 pitch. [The] 3-2 pitch was the best pitch he threw me. You go after it or you don't. It kind of just locked me up.
"Obviously, I haven't been feeling great at the plate lately. I feel like I've been just missing some balls, fouling off some good pitches. It's frustrating on a number of different levels, but you can't hang your heads about it. You've got to keep going and keep after it."
"We knew coming in that these last two pitchers were going to be a challenge. They're real good. That's why they're playing as well as anybody in the AL. We're getting ready to play one [team, in the Astros] that's probably the best, so we knew the schedule was going to be tough. But it's the big leagues, and you've got to beat those guys." -- Showalter, on the loss as his team heads to Houston More >
"You know, they had a little bobble there, which gave us a chance to go ahead and send [Miguel Sano]. Not sure what the Richter scale registered on that, but it was a little bit of a belly flop more than a headfirst slide." -- Molitor, on Sano's headfirst dive into home plate in the second inning on Kepler's double
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Berrios' opponents are 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts and two walks with runners on base this season, and they are 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and a walk with a runner in scoring position.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Following a day off on Thursday, Hector Santiago will take the mound for Minnesota to begin a three-game series on Friday against Tampa Bay at Target Field. In his past two outings, Santiago has allowed nine runs on 15 hits, giving up four home runs in 7 2/3 innings. First pitch is slated for 7:10 p.m. CT.
Orioles: The O's will enjoy an off-day on Thursday before heading to Houston for a quick three-game road trip. The Astros are one of the hottest teams in baseball, and the O's are sending Kevin Gausman to the hill to begin the series Friday night at 8:10 p.m. ET at Minute Maid Park.