Once again, the Orioles score first against Minnesota

The Orioles jumped out to another lead against the Twins this afternoon when J.J. Hardy hit a 2-1 pitch from Anthony Swarzak for a solo homer to left center in the last of the first today.

The Orioles still hold that 1-0 lead in the fourth and have outscored the Twins 6-0 in the first three innings of the games this weekend.

The Orioles began last year with a starting pitching-led three-game sweep at Tampa Bay and so far in this series have gotten excellent starting pitching. Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel have combined for 17 innings without allowing an earned run through today’s third frame.

Last year in Tampa Bay, the starters gave up just one run and six hits in 20 innings in that sweep of the Rays. The pitchers then were Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton.

Other notes on this game this afternoon:

* The Orioles today are looking for their first three-game sweep of the Twins in Baltimore since Aug. 6-8, 2002. The Birds did sweep a four-game series last August at Target Field. The Orioles have won six straight from the Twins and eight of the last nine meetings.

* If he homers today, Nick Markakis would join Frank Robinson as the only Orioles to ever homer in the season’s first three games. Robinson did it from April 12-15, 1966. It was the start of a pretty good year for him as No. 20 won the Triple Crown that season and he led the Orioles to a World Series sweep of the Dodgers. Markakis, by the way, has never homered in three straight games.

* The Orioles began today with a .306 team batting (good for third in the American) and a team ERA of 1.00 (tied for first with Detroit). Markakis, by going 5-for-7 in the first two games, is tied for the AL batting lead with L.A.’s Kendry Morales (who is also 5-for-7). Markakis begins the day leading the AL in slugging at 1.857.

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