By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
1:13 AM EDT, May 11, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS — Dating back to last season, the Orioles often have struggled offensively when they can’t hit the longball.
On Friday, in a 9-6, 10-inning victory over the Minnesota Twins, they flourished despite not going quite deep enough.
That’s what happens when you get a season-high 18 hits and seven of your nine batters have at least two hits apiece, the first time the Orioles have done that since exactly two years ago -- May 10, 2011 against Seattle.
Instead of homering on Friday, the Orioles smacked a season-high seven doubles, including four in a three-run sixth and two more in a three-run seventh to wipe out a 6-0 deficit.
"It's not a club that panics. I've told you many times," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's a mature group. Even though it's the youngest team in our division. They stay within each other and do what they do. Guys don't try to hit five-run home runs. Just got a lot of people who strung a lot of good at-bats together and kept grinding it out.”
They used four singles in the 10th to score three runs against Twins reliever Anthony Swarzak (1-1). The Orioles then turned the ball over to Jim Johnson, who picked up his 14th save of the season and his franchise-record setting 35th consecutive save in the regular season, breaking a tie with Randy Myers in 1997.
“It’s not really anything I’m focused on," Johnson said of the record. "It’s great, but our ultimate goal is our team record at the end of the year and going further than that. Personal achievements are always second.”
The Orioles (22-14) have won five of their last six and are now 3-2 in extra-inning games after going 16-2 in those contests last year.
Tommy Hunter (3-1) picked up the win with 2 1/3 perfect innings of relief, extending his scoreless innings streak to 14 2/3.
For five innings, Minnesota right-hander Mike Pelfrey held the Orioles scoreless, allowing just five hits and a walk, before tiring quickly.
Nick Markakis led off the sixth against Pelfrey with a double. Two batters later, Chris Davis doubled him home. J.J. Hardy doubled to score Davis and then Chris Dickerson doubled to plate Hardy.
It was the first time since Aug. 26, 2011 that the Orioles had doubled four times in one inning and the first time since Aug. 30, 2012 that they had at least four extra-base hits in a single frame.
The Orioles’ doubling trend continued in the seventh against reliever Josh Roenicke, the son of former Orioles outfielder Gary Roenicke.
Nate McLouth doubled to lead off the inning and scored on an RBI single from Markakis. Davis later added another RBI double to tie the score at 6-6.
“This was so casual, nonchalant, like, ‘OK, 6-0. We are going to come back,’" Dickerson said. "Very rarely do you ever experience that where you knew that, the team knew we were going to come back and win. It was amazing.”
The Orioles (22-14) hadn’t had more than four doubles in one game this season before hitting six in two innings Friday. Their seven doubles total was their highest number of two-baggers since having eight on June 14 last year versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. The club record is nine.
Someof those doubles hit at spacious Target field would have been homers at Camden Yards.
"It's one of the things people miss. It's not like football or basketball, where you're playing the same type of court of field every time with the same dimensions," Showalter said. "There's different conditions. You probably could make the case for how many home runs would have been hit tonight in our ballpark. Of course, they would have had a couple, too. But we played here.”
They needed the offense, because right-hander Jason Hammel put them in an early hole.
Despite his success on the road this year, Hammel has been living dangerously much of this early season.
On Friday, Hammel’s lack of crispness finally -- and fully -- caught up with him.
The Orioles’ No. 1 starter lasted a season-worst four-plus innings and gave up a season-high six runs, leaving in the fifth after failing to retire any of the three batters he faced in the inning.
“It’s been a grind from the get-go, honestly," he said. "Really not much to say about myself. The way the team battled back after I put them in a deep hole; the bullpen to come in and hold it strong there. And then, like I said last week, you stick around long enough, these guys are going to put up some runs. I mean, nine runs in four innings from these guys, that’s impressive.”
It was Hammel’s worst start in an Orioles uniform since allowing eight runs to the Los Angeles Angels last June. Only four times in his season-plus tenure with the Orioles has he failed to go more than four innings – and two of those he left due to a right knee injury that eventually required surgery.
Hammel entered Friday night winning five of his first seven starts in 2013 – and all five of the wins came on the road. He was looking to become the first big league pitcher since 1920 to pick up six road wins in a season before May 17. Pedro Martinez (2000), Wilbur Wood (1973) and Jim Perry (1970) all won their sixth on May 17.
But Hammel was immediately behind on Friday night, when the Twins scored runs in four of the five innings in which Hammel pitched. Allowing eight hits, two walks and six earned runs, his ERA jumped to 4.93 on the season.
In the first, Jamey Carroll led off with a single and Joe Mauer followed with a double to right that Dickerson couldn’t handle in right field. Mauer added a two-run single in the second and, by the time Hammel left in the fifth, he was down 5-0 with two runners on base.
Rookie lefty T.J. McFarland allowed one inherited runner to score on a groundout, and then shut down the Twins after that.
McFarland lowered his ERA to 2.76 with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and one intentional walk while giving the Orioles a chance to mount the comeback. The bullpen didn’t allow a run in six innings.
“We're throwing the ball well," Hunter said. "We're called up and we're doing our job. It's about all we can do right now. We keep getting the ball. We're going to keep throwing innings. Hopefully, we keep winning games like this. We give our team a chance to win, and these guys are going to hit. Just give them time, and they'll come through. They did it tonight.”
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun