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Missed opportunities in tough loss to Twins

O's pitchers give game away after lead

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Orioles fell to one of their most distressing defeats of the year Tuesday, a 7-6 loss to the Twins that saw them chase the opposing starter early and lead from the second inning to the sixth. Minnesota ruled the endgame, scoring four unanswered runs and finally pushing ahead with two outs in the ninth.

Baltimore saw several examples of substandard play in the loss, including a few costly baserunning mistakes and a relief outing that immediately washed away a competitive start. The Orioles left the bases loaded twice and weren't able to convert a chance in the ninth inning after pushing the leadoff hitter to second.

"Do I feel like we gave it away? No, I don't feel like we gave it away," said manager Dave Trembley. "I feel like we didn't take it. It was there for us to take and we didn't take it. ...I think there's a difference there."

That may well be the case, and Minnesota deserved credit for taking advantage. The Twins had several opportunities of their own in the early innings but came through with the hits in the game's final moments. Designated hitter Delmon Young had a four-hit game, including a game-winning ground ball steered right through the infield.

That single spurred a raucuous on-field celebration for the Twins (63-63), but it hardly erased the carnage of the early innings. Baltimore had forged ahead against rookie starter Armando Gabino, scoring four runs and chasing the right-hander before the end of the third inning. Rookie Michael Aubrey had a big hand in that assault, notching a two-run double in the second inning and then a bases-loaded walk to push home a run in the third.

But even as Baltimore (51-75) started mounting a lead, rookie starter Brian Matusz began giving it back. The southpaw allowed a two-run triple to Denard Span in the second inning and a monstrous solo homer to Justin Morneau in the third before settling down. Matusz pitched through the fifth and left the game with a three-run lead.

"I didn't think I had my best stuff," said Matusz, who was making his fifth big league start. "The tempo of the game was very slow on both sides, so it was very tough to get out there and get in a good groove. It was a real battle today. The last few innings were a plus, but I'd have to say I didn't start out very well. I wasn't able to get ahead of hitters, but I was able to buckle down without my best stuff today and get through that fourth and fifth inning."

"It seemed like the tempo of the game for both of those young starters was two hours in three innings," added Trembley of the early innings. "I don't think that's really gonna sit very well with Major League Baseball and the pace of game procedures. ... They had Matusz on the ropes, we had Gabino on the ropes. It just seemed like neither one of them wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that they had, to be honest with you."

The game turned right after he left, thanks to a disastrous outing from Brian Bass. The right-hander faced five batters and didn't retire any of them, giving up three straight hits and two walks. Mark Hendrickson took the ball from Bass and got a double play and a groundout to temporarily keep the Twins from pulling ahead.

"I gave up two ground-ball hits and the wheels kind of fell off after that," said Bass. "The guy goes out and gives us a three-run lead, for the last four innings we're expected to hold it and get it to the end of the game."

The Orioles scored in both the third and fourth innings, but they also left three runners on base both times. Felix Pie made an unexplainable baserunning mistake in the fourth, when he slid into second base on a hit and then almost ran back to first in confusion. He still scored in that inning, only to make another error in the sixth.

The center fielder opened that inning with a double, but then he tried to advance to third base on a popup near the Baltimore dugout. Both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau had converged on the ball, and Mauer's momentum carried him into the dugout. Morneau had caught the ball, though, and his throw beat Pie by 15 feet.

"Yeah, I saw him go in the dugout," said Pie of Mauer. "What happened is I tagged up and I was running with my head down. I didn't look when he threw the ball so I didn't have a chance to go back. It was a mistake. Tomorrow is another day. I don't have to do that. There was one out, but sometimes in a game, those things happen."

"I think it's Felix Pie being Felix Pie," said Trembley. "I think that's part of what he does. I'm not trying to slight it or be cute. He makes mistakes on the basepaths and you sit there and go, 'How the heck did that happen?' He made a heck of a catch in center field but, obviously, that kind of gets overshadowed by the other two blunders."

Nolan Reimold doubled to lead off the ninth, but Jose Mijares came in and got three straight outs. Then Kam Mickolio -- who came into the game with 9 2/3 scoreless innings this season -- took the mound for his second inning of work. Mickolio got two quick outs and narrowly missed the third when Brian Roberts knocked down a line drive.

The right-handed rookie wound up walking pinch-hitter Jason Kubel, and Young hit a ball through the infield to push Michael Cuddyer home with the winning run. That hit pushed the Twins back to the break-even mark and brought the Orioles to 24 games under .500, which ties their lowest standing at any point of the season.

"They had plenty of opportunities," Trembley said. "It wasn't just us that didn't take advantage of scoring opportunities. They had many, many scoring opportunities as well with no outs or one out. They didn't break it open either. You just got a sense after Bass let them back in the game that it was going to be an interesting finish."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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