MINNEAPOLIS - The Orioles will make another roster move today to clear room for starter Steve Johnson. Reliever Alex Burnett is expected to be optioned to Triple-A Norfolk, but we'll have to wait for an announcement.
Tommy Hunter has been credited with the win in his last three appearances. He retired all seven batters he faced last night, striking out three, and lowered his ERA to 1.47.
Joe Mauer took him deep in the eighth inning - just not deep enough. Adam Jones made the catch on the center field warning track to keep the game tied. Hunter knows how to pitch to his ballpark.
Returning to the mound in the ninth, Hunter sandwiched two strikeouts around a pop up to first base. It was impressive.
One of the moments that stayed with me last night occurred in the seventh inning, when Hunter replaced T.J. McFarland with a runner on second base and two outs. He fell behind Aaron Hicks 3-0, got a called first strike on a 96 mph cutter, got two foul balls on 95 and 97 mph fastballs and struck out Hicks on an 80 mph curveball.
A curveball on a full count?
Nice call by catcher Matt Wieters.
"Guys on other teams look out there and they see 96 or whatever. They're looking 96," said manager Buck Showalter. "If you can get something soft over, you've got a pretty good chance of having some success. And what's been a challenge for Tommy is his secondary pitches as a starter. You don't have to use as many of them as a reliever. He has a good mentality for it right now."
Second baseman Alexi Casilla may be on the bench tonight against Twins right-hander Vance Worley. He's going to start Sunday against left-hander Scott Diamond.
Casilla added a nice dimension to the bottom of the lineup last night. He singled twice, walked, stole two bases and laid down a sacrifice bunt.
"I thought Alexi gave us a lift at second base," Showalter said. "He brought a lot of energy into the game."
Casilla is 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts this season and 25-of-26 over the past two years. He's only been thrown out nine times in 86 attempts in his major league career.
Jason Hammel was spared the loss by the Orioles' comeback from a 6-0 deficit. Showalter noted that Hammel is having trouble repeating his delivery. Hammel said he's tweaked his warmup routine, but he's still not finishing hitters like he did in 2012.
"Getting ahead with two strikes, I'm still throwing hittable pitches," Hammel said. "Like, three or four sliders today that were up in the zone with two strikes when I was way ahead in the count. So it's very frustrating. But really, I think it's been fastball command and the slider.
"The curveball and changeup were actually pretty good for me. It's just finishing hitters."
Hammel was impressive during his bullpen session this week and while he warmed up last night, but it didn't carry into the game.
"I've been there before and I've had that," Hammel said. "Starting pitchers sometimes laugh. Sometimes when you warm up the best you've ever warmed up, you don't want to go pitch in the game. It's like you're going to get the opposite.
"I'm not going to make a big deal of it. I've just got to continue to get back to work, maybe even a little extra work. So, you know, just got to keep grinding."