Orioles come close again and come up empty (with quotes)

A streak of one-run losses for the Orioles has morphed into something less quirky and more concerning.

chris-tillman-white-follow-through-Sidebar.jpgThe Twins jumped Chris Tillman early today, another misstep by a maligned rotation, and completed their three-game sweep with a 4-3 victory over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 32,267 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (25-20) have dropped four in a row and 10 of their last 13. They’re two games behind the first-place Yankees, who play tonight.

Fourteen of the last 15 games after been decided by two runs or fewer. Seven losses are by one run.

The bats were quiet again, with Ervin Santana retiring the final 14 Orioles last night on his way to a two-hit shutout and Jose Berríos retiring the first seven today before J.J. Hardy homered to left field to reduce the lead to 4-1.

Hardy struck out to end the game after Trey Mancini singled and Jonathan Schoop hit into a 4-3 double play.

Berríos carried that lead into the seventh and didn’t make it out of the inning. Chris Davis led off with his 209th home run with the Orioles to tie Brady Anderson for seventh on the all-time list and Schoop homered with one out.

The Orioles put two runners on base in the eighth on pinch-hitter Joey Rickard’s leadoff single and a two-out error that allowed Mark Trumbo to reach, but Davis struck out looking after getting ahead 3-0.

The Twins sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning, squeezed 36 pitches out of Tillman and took a 3-0 lead. They scored again in the second on doubles by Brian Dozier and Max Kepler and Tillman was up to 57 pitches.

Tillman didn’t surrender another run, needing only nine pitches to complete the third and stranding two runners in the fifth. Alec Asher replaced him in the sixth and retired six of the seven batters he faced on 24 pitches.

Darren O’Day struck out the side in the eighth and Brad Brach had two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth.

Tillman has one quality start in four tries since coming off the disabled list. He allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings, with two walks and three strikeouts. His day was done after 104 pitches, 59 for strikes.

Adam Jones was batting .383 in day games before going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He fanned again after Rickard’s single.

The Twins swept the Orioles in a four-game series at Camden Yards in August 2015. Their last three-game sweep in Baltimore occurred in July 1996.

The Orioles lost all seven games to the Twins in 2015 and won five of six last year. They’re in an 0-3 hole, with a four-games series in Minnesota running from July 6-9 leading into the All-Star break.

Update: Ryan Flaherty received his platelet-rich plasma injection today and is heading to Sarasota.

The Orioles claimed infielder Luis Sardiñas off waivers earlier today, but don’t assume, as I did, that he’s replacing Paul Janish on the 25-man roster. They could try to run Sardiñas through waivers and outright him.

Here’s a sampling from manager Buck Showalter:

On Tillman: “OK. He struggled in the first inning, but as we’ve seen Chris a lot, it’s kind of what separates him. In some situations, he made some pitches to get out of it and keep us engaged in the game. His command wasn’t very good early, but he kind of found it in the third inning. It’s a good-hitting team, a lot of left-handers. He’s got some weapons to defend himself against it and it finally came around for him a little later. He was fortunate to get out of that inning, but it was another of those outings where guys are throwing 100 pitches in five innings. It’s a challenge.”

On what long innings do: “What it does is make you pitch four innings out of the bullpen, which we’ve been doing a lot. And you have to do it at home. You hope you’re doing it on the road, which is the ninth inning, so that’s good. That’s one of the biggest challenges is you’re constantly pitching four innings out of your bullpen. But it’s one of the things with Ubaldo (Jiménez), he has to exert so much energy sometimes, and he’s not the only one. That’s why it was so nice to see Dylan (Bundy) keep his pitch count down and be able to pitch into the seventh inning last night.”

On how it’s like April for Tillman right now due to DL stint: “I think about that. I do. I give him a little ... I’ll tell you, I thought his stuff was good. As far as crispness and stuff. But he got into some counts where he had nothing there but the fastball and it kind of center-cut on him in the first inning, but then you see the other side of it the rest of the way. I have a lot of confidence that he’ll find it. And sometimes keep in mind where he is in the process of pitching. I try to keep that in mind. But there’s a flow. Defense is a certain rhythm you have when guys are throwing strikes and working quick. It seemed to be a lot crisper defense behind it.”

On lack of hits with runners in scoring position: “We knew coming in that these last two pitchers were going to be a challenge. They’re real good. That’s why they’re playing as well as anybody in the American League. We’re getting ready to play one that’s probably the best, so we knew the schedule was going to be tough, but it’s the big leagues and you’ve got to beat those guys. Offensively, it’s kind of been boom or bust and that’s a challenge. You’ve got to pitch real well. They kept the solo home run in play today and usually when pitchers do that, you usually give yourself a chance to win. They’ve been pitching real well out of the bullpen and we got to see that, unfortunately.”

On whether Asher’s 24 pitches influence Sunday starter: “I haven’t committed to anything. Right now it’s Jiménez. Asher threw two innings today, pitched well again and I really thought Darren was really sharp. I was talking to him in the dugout afterward and that’s about as good as he’s felt on his extension. You could see it, really crisp. He and Brach had three days off. Alec certainly presented himself well. He’s been good. I really like some things about him, intangibles too.”

On Davis being hot and cold: “Chris, he throws him two straight breaking balls and then ball three and then gets a borderline pitch called a strike and then 3-2 he throws him a pitch he hasn’t been able to throw for a strike. I can see how it happens. The guy’s throwing 95-96 (mph). He’s got a big arm. You know we drafted him in 2009, (Taylor) Rogers? I was looking at that the other day. Does anybody care?

“I know it’s frustrating for him and I’m sure for some people who watch us, but you get a return if you stay with him. I thought he was aggressive early in the count in his early at-bats. That was a tough at-bat. He wasn’t the only one. That guy was good, and so was the starter. I see why they like him so much.”

On Sardiñas: “I know what I just read in the media guide before I came down here. Switch-hitter from Venezuela. He had a pretty good year last year. I was looking at the error and stolen base column. But that’s to be continued. I wouldn’t go too deep on the bio.”

On Michael Bourn’s release: “Mike’s an experienced outfielder that has some things to offer, but sometimes the clock runs out on you. To be continued, I hope.”

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