There is a point in nearly every team's season where it has to look in the mirror and either come to terms with the team it is going to be or decide that it is going to become better. That time is now for the Baltimore Orioles after dropping the second game in a row to the last place team in the American League, the Minnesota Twins. The back-to-back losses have left the O's searching for answers to salvage a season that started off so promising.
The Orioles blew leads last night of 1-0 and 4-1 en route to falling 6-4 to the Twins and moving to 4-9 in July. The bullpen ERA is the worst in the Majors during the month of July and has quickly turned from an undoubted strength to a major question mark. The Birds are experiencing their worst streak of the season and as Walking in a Winter Wonderland notes, it shows no signs of stopping. Last night the Orioles best player and team leader Adam Jones his a three run shot in top of the fifth inning to give the O's a 4-1 lead and put them back in command in a game they should have won.
But Zach Britton became the second Orioles starter of the series to struggle and lasted only 4+ innings. Sadly, that performance was significantly better than Chris Tillman's the night before. Britton gave up four runs, six hits, and an abysmal six walks in the four innings pitched. Even then, the Birds still had a chance to win the game and although Britton didn't turn in the start the team needed, it wasn't a complete disaster like Tillman on Monday. Luis Ayala continued his recent struggles out of the pen for the Birds when he gave up the go ahead single in bottom of the seventh to Ben Revere and proceeded to give up another RBI single to the next hitter Joe Mauer.
The Orioles have given up 25 runs on 23 hits in the last two games to the Twins. In their previous eight games before the beginning of this series with the Birds, the Twins scored a total of just 21 runs. Now they were hitting the ball, but were failing to produce any timely hitting.
For the Birds last night, Adam Jones delivered the major blow with the three run home run in the fifth inning. Nick Markakis continues to be red hot since returning from the DL and hitting in the leadoff hole going 3-4 with a walk and scoring twice. Markakis is 10-23 since returning to the line-up and has seen his average rise from .256 to .275 in his five games post injury. The return of the bat of J.J. Hardy has not happened with the return of Markakis to the line-up. Many, myself included, thought that the return of the right fielder would spark Hardy, who is hitting just .96 in the month of July and is one of the major reasons the Orioles offense can't get any momentum going.
Touchdown Tommy Hunter goes for the Birds today and you can expect the Twins bats to be out in full force against possibly the Birds worst starter of the series. That is a scary thought considering that Tillman didn't make it out of the first inning and Britton went just 4+ innings. Hunter had his best start of the season and his only good one against Minnesota in the opening series of the season. Hopefully Touchdown Tommy can regain that form and get the Birds back in the win column.
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