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O's light up Liriano in twin-bill opener

O's light up Liriano in twin-bill opener

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MINNEAPOLIS -- CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, Matt Garza, Justin Duchscherer.

The list of opposing pitchers on the hill when Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie has taken his turn has been daunting this season, particularly given their combined numbers -- 31-2 with a 2.44 ERA -- against Baltimore. Factor in Saturday's Twins starter Francisco Liriano, who was coming off a career April, and it was hardly a stretch to tab Guthrie and the O's as the decided underdogs.

"I don't think a whole bunch of people expected a bunch of runs today against Francisco," Guthrie said.

But that's exactly what the Orioles' much-maligned offense delivered, giving Guthrie his first win this season in the process.

Baltimore's oft-publicized struggles to produce timely hitting was nowhere to be found on Saturday afternoon, as the team totaled a season-high eight hits with men in scoring position, tagging Liriano with his first loss of the season in a 7-3 win over Minnesota in front of a sellout crowd of 38,608 at Target Field.

Saturday afternoon's victory, the first of a scheduled doubleheader, improves the Orioles to 2-0 against the Twins and ensures them of at least a tie in the four-game weekend set.

"Coming into the game 4-0, you look at his ERA, you knew he's on top of his game," Nick Markakis said of Liriano, who entered Saturday with a 1.50 ERA in five starts. "To come out and score that many runs off of him, it's a good sign for the team. It's a good sign for this next [game]."

Liriano, who allowed three earned runs the entire month of April, surrendered a season-high five to the Orioles. The lefty, named the American League's Pitcher of the Month in April, allowed 10 hits over six innings, his shortest stint since his season debut on April 9.

"I remember managing against [Liriano] when he was in Triple-A, and I bunted off him in the first inning because we weren't going to get a whole lot of runs off him," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He's tough, he's very tough. But sometimes you have to find a way, and sometimes the breaks got to go your way. They did today."

All five of the Orioles' runs off Liriano came with two outs, as Markakis drove in his third run of the afternoon in a three-run fourth. Catcher Matt Wieters got things going with a one-out double down the third-base line and scored on No. 9 batter Cesar Izturis' second hit of the day. Julio Lugo singled to tie a season-high with three hits and improve to 6-for-9 in two games out of the leadoff spot in the last four days.

"I think we were aggressive," Lugo said. "[Liriano] throws a 96 [mph] fastball and a 92 [mph] slider. He was throwing strikes today. We just hit the ball in the right place."

The Orioles scored six of their seven runs with two outs, improving their season RISP average to .223 (52-for-233) in the process.

"We had a lot of guys who were aggressive and making contact," Lugo said. "When you have a man on third and less than two outs, you got to put the ball in play. You don't have to get a hit all the time. "

The O's got on board with one out in the third, as three consecutive singles by Nolan Reimold, Izturis and Lugo loaded the bases on Liriano and brought the scuffling Adam Jones to the plate. After falling behind, 0-2, Jones hit a shallow fly to left field that shortstop Brendan Harris caught. Markakis picked him up with a two-out liner to right-center field, plating a pair of runs and tying the game at 2.

"We got a lot of hits," Guthrie said. "Those are big-time things against a great pitcher that had been in a groove. It speaks volumes to our hitters today, and that's the reason we won this game."

Faced with more than double the run support he'd received in each of his previous six starts, Guthrie kept the damage minimal. He labored through a 27-pitch first inning, surrendering a two-run homer to Justin Morneau, but rebounded to last 6 2/3 innings. Guthrie allowed a solo shot to Michael Cuddyer in the fourth for the only other Twins score.

"[Guthrie] had some pretty good movement, a nice little breaking ball and a great changeup," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "He kept us off-balance and pretty much shut us down."

With Saturday's win, Guthrie (1-4) snapped a career-high eight-game losing streak in decisions dating back to Sept. 2, 2009.

"[Guthrie's] got to feel good right now," Markakis said. "His starts early on [this season] were great; we just couldn't score runs for him. He was pitching his butt off."

Guthrie's win guarantees the Orioles at least a tie of the Twins series, although the O's are hoping for their first series win since sweeping Boston at home last weekend.

"We won two games in a row, and we have a chance to get the doubleheader sweep tonight," Guthrie said. " I think that would be really big for us."

Brittany Ghiroli 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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