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Updated: August 25th, 2011 2:57pm
Twins Daily: Orioles sweep Twins on road for 1st time in half-century

Twins Daily: Orioles sweep Twins on road for 1st time in half-century

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Mark Reynolds' three-run home run in the seventh inning helped Baltimore to a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon at Target Field, completing the Orioles' first four-game road sweep of the Twins since the franchise relocated from Washington to Minnesota in 1961.

The skinny

The Orioles are in the cellar of the American League but you would never know it from how they played at Target Field. Or perhaps it was more how the Twins performed.

After outscoring Minnesota 18-3 in the first three games of the series, Baltimore scored two runs in the sixth inning and three in the seventh inning to pull away. The Twins have not scored more than one run in their past five games and fell to 20-games under .500 at 55-75.

"It's been a tough last month or so, to be honest with you," Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "It's been hard and frustrating but the only thing you can do is keep going out there and playing."

Said manager Ron Gardenhire: "Really not much offense again today. [Justin] Morneau a couple of nice hits out there, [Trevor Plouffe] swung it good but a lot of misfires and gave up a few too many."

The Twins injury woes continued to mount as starter Francisco Liriano left the game after giving up a run, two hits, three walks and striking out two in two innings. He will be placed on the disabled list because of a posterior strain in his throwing shoulder. This came one day after Cuddyer was hit in the left wrist by a pitch and had to leave the game.

An MRI Thursday came back negative and Cuddyer was in the lineup, going 1-for-4. "It's not good," he said of the wrist. "But it is what it is. It's not broken so we can go out there and play."

Liriano struggled in the second, as Nolan Reimold and Ryan Adams got consecutive one-out base hits. Craig Tatum, the No. 8 hitter, then walked to load the bases. Matt Angle struck out but Liriano walked Robert Andino to force in a run and keep the bases full.

Former Twin J.J. Hardy, who went 6-for-13 in the first three games of the series, hit into a short to second fielder's choice to end the inning.

The Twins tied it up in the bottom of the third off Orioles starter Jo-Jo Reyes when Morneau's double to right scored Plouffe from first base. A wild pitch moved Morneau to third but he was unable to score as  Cuddyer and Jason Kubel grounded out to end the inning.

The Twins had an opportunity to take the lead when they loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth on a double by Plouffe, a walk to Morneau and a single by Cuddyer. Kubel, however, grounded out to Reyes.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak, who was scheduled to start Friday night against Detroit, entered in the fourth inning after Alex Burnett had pitched a scoreless inning. Swarzak pitched two innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

Turning point

The score was tied at 1-1 in the sixth when Reimold singled and Adams walked. Tatum's double to deep left-center scored both runners.

Swarzak walked Angle before getting Andino to ground into a short-to-second-to-first double play. Swarzak remained in the game to start the seventh but clearly was out of gas and the Orioles took advantage.

Reynolds one-out homer, his team-leading 29th of the season, came on a 3-1 fastball after Hardy and Vladimir Guerrero had singled and signaled the end of the day for Swarzak.

"It was a little switch," Swarzak said of going from Friday starter to Thursday reliever. "It was one of those game-time situations where you've got to grab the ball and go. I'd never say that was a reason for me giving up a home run to Reynolds because it wasn't. The ball came out of my hand and I was loose and ready to go and made a good pitch and he beat me on it."

Numbers game

5-17: The Twins' record in August. They have been outscored 119-68 this month.

10-28: The Twins record against the American League East.

1-7: The Twins' record on this homestand, including 1-3 against the Yankees and 0-4 against the Orioles.

70: Games Drew Butera has played at catcher this season for the Twins.

50: Games Joe Mauer has played at catcher this season for the Twins.

2: Innings pitched by Liriano on Thursday, his shortest outing of the season. His shortest 2011 stint before Thursday came on July 24 when he lasted 2 1/3 innings and gave up four runs against Detroit.

1: Runs scored by the Twins in their past four games entering Thursday. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in more than a century that the Twins franchise has lost four consecutive games, all at home, while scoring no more than one run in each game. It last happened in September 1909, when the Washington Senators lost five consecutive games in that fashion.

1: Major league hits for Orioles center fielder Matt Angle after he got a bunt single in the fifth inning.

Overheard

"Not even in roller hockey would you have this many injuries."
-- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire when asked if he had ever had a season like this when it came to players being hurt.

Health report

• C Joe Mauer sat out a second consecutive game because of a sore neck.

• Liriano left the game after two innings because of a posterior strain in his throwing shoulder. He will be placed on the disabled list and undergo an MRI on Friday.

• 3B Danny Valencia had his wisdom teeth removed Thursday and was unavailable for the game. The procedure had been planned.

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (back) hasn't started the past five games, but he has been taking batting practice and is hoping to play Friday.

• OF Michael Cuddyer returned to the lineup on Thursday after an MRI on his left wrist showed he did not break a bone when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning on Wednesday.

• IF Alexi Casilla (right hamstring) has been doing on field work for three days and is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday.

• RHP Scott Baker (right flexor strain) completed the third day of his throwing program and is eligible to return from the DL when he is ready to pitch again.

On deck

The Twins will play host to Detroit on Friday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) in what will be the final three games of an extremely disappointing 11-game homestand. Swarzak was scheduled to face Tigers righthander Rick Porcello (11-8, 5.17) but that isn't going to happen after Swarzak's relief outing Thursday. 

Instead, the Twins will recall lefthander Scott Diamond (0-1, 4.26 with the Twins) from Triple-A Rochester to make the start.

The series will mark the return of left fielder Delmon Young, who was traded to the Tigers on Aug. 15 hours before the teams met in Detroit. The Twins received pitchers Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros in return.

Young is hitting .279 (12-for-43) with two home runs and six RBI in 10 games since joining the Tigers. He hit .266 (81-for-305) with four homers and 32 RBI in 84 games with the Twins this season.

Oliveros pitched in his first game for the Twins on Tuesday night, giving up one run in two innings.

Coming up

• Saturday: vs. Detroit, 3:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-10, 4.54) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (19-5, 2.28).
• Sunday: vs. Detroit, 1:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-13, 5.12) vs. RHP Brad Penny (9-9, 4.82).
• Monday: at Chicago White Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-2, 6.84) vs. TBD.

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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