J.J. Hardy's grand slam helps to power Orioles past Twins
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BALTIMORE -- The Orioles and Twins kept circling the bases at a dizzying rate, until finally the barrage ended with numbers that resembled a slow-pitch softball game.
Baltimore finished with 18 of the 33 hits, the majority of the runs and five of eight walks in a 12-8 victory Sunday.
"I don't think I've seen a scoreboard where everybody on both teams had a hit," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Day like today, ball's carrying. It was a very offensive day. It's a hard day to pitch. We just had a few more points than they did."
J.J. Hardy contributed his fourth career grand slam to a seven-run sixth inning, Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 35th home run and Ryan Flaherty also connected for the Orioles, who extended their AL East lead over the second-place New York Yankees to nine games.
"Each time you win, you feel like you put yourself in a position each and every day to be closer to the goal," said Caleb Joseph, who had a career-high four hits. "The goal is to play in October. "
Nick Markakis and David Lough had three hits apiece for Baltimore and, as Showalter noted, every starter on both teams had a least one hit.
"We scored plenty of runs," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire noted. "Pitching-wise, we just didn't stop them."
Ricky Nolasco (5-10) gave up eight runs and 12 hits over five-plus innings. He has lost four straight and is winless on the road since May 30.
"I feel like I beat myself today. No knock on them; they crushed the ball," Nolasco said. "This team is very dangerous, especially in this ballpark, and they showed that today."
Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana hit two-run homers for the Twins, who have lost seven of eight and been outscored 24-11 in this series.
"I think we've been very selective," Showalter said. "We've strung together a lot of good at-bats. Today we needed all of them."
Baltimore will seek to complete its first four-game home sweep of the Twins on Monday. The Orioles did, however, take all five games of a home series with Minnesota in 1966.
Wei-Yin Chen (14-4) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander is 7-1 in 10 starts since June 28.
Minnesota made it interesting by scoring three runs in the ninth before Zach Britton served up a double-play ball for his 31st save.
The Orioles left the bases loaded in the first inning and stranded runners on the corners in the second. In the third, however, Nolasco couldn't escape.
Cruz homered, Chris Davis doubled and Hardy walked before Flaherty sent a 1-0 pitch over the 25-foot scoreboard in right field.
Plouffe homered in the fourth, but the Orioles went up 11-2 with their most productive inning of the year.
After Adam Jones doubled in two runs to chase Nolasco, Anthony Swarzak intentionally walked Davis to load the bases. On a 2-0 count, Hardy hit a drive into the left-field seats for his first slam since May 15, 2011.
"It's fun when everybody's contributing and helping the team," Hardy said.
Hardy didn't hit his first home run until June 21 but now has nine after hitting five in August.
"I'm seeing the ball better, not missing pitches when I get them," he said.
It was the sixth grand slam of the season for Baltimore, the second in the series.© The Associated Press