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Updated: August 24th, 2011 9:47pm
Twins Daily: Kevin Slowey struggles in fifth as Twins fall to O's

Twins Daily: Kevin Slowey struggles in fifth as Twins fall to O's

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins' lost season got that much worse Wednesday night as the Baltimore Orioles cruised to a 6-1 victory at Target Field. The Orioles will go for the four-game sweep Thursday afternoon.

The skinny

Baltimore entered the series as the worst-team in the American League but continued to look superior to the Twins.

Righthander Kevin Slowey, who gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings on Aug. 19 against the Yankees in his first big-league start since May 20, pitched well through four innings on Wednesday before things went awry in the fifth.

Slowey ended up leaving after 4 2/3 innings, giving up five runs, seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts. He also hit a batter.

"I didn't make very many good pitches," Slowey said. "I mean, I got a couple outs here and there. ... The first four innings, it felt like I executed pitches down, and in the fifth I just didn't really make any pitches that I can really recall."

The Orioles added a final run in the ninth when J.J. Hardy scored on a wild pitch by Glen Perkins.

The Twins, outscored 12-2 in the first two games of this series, loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning, but Jim Thome's grounder up the middle was snagged by second baseman Ryan Adams to end the frame.

The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Kubel doubled to right center. Morneau followed with a double to right off Guthrie as Kubel raced home.

"We had the one chance," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Thome hit the ball and the kid made a heck of a play, diving out in the outfield and got him out. That was a big chance for us. Who knows how the game goes if that ball goes through. It gives you a little bit of life. But they made a hell of a play on that one."

But for the third consecutive game the Twins offense was only able to score one run.

Turning point

Slowey cruised through the first four innings, retiring the side three times, before coming apart.

Slowey, who had a 7.25 ERA in the fifth inning last season, gave up a home run to Mark Reynolds to open the inning.

Robert Andino struck out swinging but the bottom of the Orioles order proved too much for Slowey.

Jake Fox singled, Nolan Reimold followed with an RBI triple and Ryan Adams had an RBI double. J.J. Hardy singled to left and Nick Markakis walked before Slowey finally got Adam Jones to fly to left.

Baltimore quickly did more damage as Matt Wieters hit a two-run double to left to make it 5-1.

"He got the second out, which was huge, down 3-1," Gardenhire said. "We needed him to try to get through that inning, and Wieters slapped one down the left-field line and that was about it."

Baltimore had batted around when Phil Dumatrait came on in relief with runners on second and third and two out. The lefthander got Reynolds to ground out to shortstop Trevor Plouffe to end the inning.

"It's really frustrating to feel like mechanically I had thrown well up until that point," Slowey said, "but to just have an inning like that and really bury the team. ... We've been really scrapping lately, and for me to go out and give up five, it's just very disappointing."

Numbers game

16:
The number of times last season, in 28 starts, that Slowey failed to pitch beyond 5 2/3 innings. Slowey finished seven innings or more only six times in those 28 starts.

1: Barehanded catches by Orioles third baseman Robert Andino, who snagged Morneau's foul popup near the tarp in the bottom of the sixth inning.

4: Consecutive games in which the Twins have scored one run or fewer.

17: Errors for Danny Valencia, who saw a hard groundball go under his glove in the eighth inning.

7: Batters faced this series by Orioles left-hander Michael Gonzalez.

7: Strikeouts this series by Gonzalez.

6-for-13: Hardy in this series against the Twins, including a home run and five singles. Hardy is now hitting .275/.316/.511 on the season.

Overheard

"So, Aaron Rodgers?"
-- Joe Nathan, asking a reporter for advice on who to draft in the first round of an upcoming fantasy football draft.

Health report

• OF Michael Cuddyer was hit in the left wrist by a fastball in the bottom of the first inning, resulting in him being replaced immediately by pinch-runner Rene Tosoni. X-rays came back negative, and Cuddyer was set to be re-evaluated on Thursday.

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (back) hasn't started since last Friday, but he has been taking batting practice and was available off the bench Wednesday night.

On deck

The Twins look to avoid their worst sweep of the season on Thursday (12:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when left-hander Francisco Liriano (9-9, 4.85) takes on right-hander Jo-Jo Reyes (6-10, 5.44).

Liriano wasn't flawless by any means in his last start against the New York Yankees, but he wound up allowing only one run (zero earned) on three hits and three walks, striking out six in seven innings last weekend. It was the first time Liriano had completed seven innings since July 29, and just the third time he's accomplished that task since the All-Star break.

Since being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on August 2, Reyes has made three starts, allowing 10 earned runs in 15 innings (6.00 ERA), striking out 10 and walking seven. Reyes faced the Twins on May 14 at Target Field as a member of the Blue Jays. He allowed three runs (two earned) on 10 hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings.

Coming up

• Friday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak (3-3, 3.12) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (11-8, 5.17)
• Saturday: vs. Tigers, 3:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-10, 4.54) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (19-5, 2.28)
• Sunday: vs. Tigers, 1:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-13, 5.12) vs. RHP Brad Penny (9-9, 4.82)

Phil Mackey contributed.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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