MINNEAPOLIS – Badly needing their starter to give them innings, Steve Johnson failed the Orioles on Saturday night. So badly did Johnson fail them that they optioned him to Norfolk.
Johnson coughed his way through four innings in an 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins before 32,221 at Target Field.
It was the second straight night that an Orioles starter failed the team, but terrific hitting bailed them out on Friday night. The Orioles managed 12 hits, but just one in the last three innings.
The Orioles will add a pitcher for Sunday’s game. The bullpen needs help even if the team has two off days next week. Among those who could be considered for a promotion are Mike Belfiore, Mark Hendrickson, Jair Jurrjens, Adam Russell and Daniel Schlereth.
All five are with Norfolk, which is playing at Syracuse this weekend. Of the five only Belfiore is on the 40-man roster, but space could be created by transferring Brian Roberts to the 60-day disabled list.
Johnson knew he put the team in a bind with a performance that wasn’t helped by the awful weather conditions. When the game began, the temperature was 53 degrees and winds were blowing at 25 mph.
“You never want to put the bullpen in that situation. I wanted to go out there and go as long as I could. Unfortunately I couldn’t get out of that inning and I threw a lot of pitches. You don’t want to put the bullpen in that situation and you don’t want to give up the lead the way I did. It’s just not good all around,” Johnson said.
The Orioles (22-15) scored three runs in the first off Vance Worley, who somehow got his first win of the season despite giving up five runs on 11 hits.
Worley (1-4) has allowed 30 hits in his last 15 innings, but the Orioles allowed him to get away with a win.
Johnson (0-1) gave up two runs to the Twins (17-16) in the third and four in the fourth.
In four, Johnson allowed six runs on seven hits. He walked four and struck out three.
“I couldn’t get a good feel for my pitches today,” Johnson said. “I thought I started off alright and just couldn’t make a pitch to get out of that inning. It’s unfortunate when the team gives you that lead they gave you to not be able to make a pitch and limit the damage, you know, it’s not good.”
Minnesota’s two runs in the third came on three doubles by Eduardo Escobar, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
Brian Dozier’s double, Mourneau’s two-run single and Chris Parmelee’s single gave the Twins a 6-4 lead.
Manager Buck Showalter said the weather conditions were partly to blame for Johnson’s performance.
“That's tough. It's a challenge for everybody. It's tough to get a feel. Balls were slick,” Showalter said. “Stevie came out hot and ready to go and started out really well, but he just couldn't maintain it."
A year ago, Johnson was 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 appearances. He entered the game with batters 0-for-20 with runners in scoring position against him. Now, he goes back to Norfolk to try and get better again.
“It’s just quite getting the feel of the offspeed stuff and being able to have that for strikes,” Matt Wieters said. “The fastball was fine and the changeup came in pieces but he just couldn’t quite get offspeed pitches he could keep them off balance with and big league hitters will eventually get [to].”
In the first, Manny Machado doubled to lead off. Nick Markakis’ single scored him. Adam Jones singled and Chris Davis’ base hit drove in Markakis for the second run. Wieters’ sacrifice fly drove in Jones for a 3-0 lead.
Wieters’ fifth home run in the fourth inning gave the Orioles a temporary 4-2 lead.
After the Twins took the 6-4 lead, Machado’s RBI single drove in Ryan Flaherty. Worley was replaced by Brian Duensing. He quickly ended the inning by getting Nick Markakis to hit into a double play.
Duensing allowed just one hit in two innings. Casey Fien retired the two batters he faced and Jared Burton picked up his first save with a scoreless ninth.
Ryan Doumit’s two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth off Troy Patton made it 8-5.
NOTES: Wei-Yin Chen (2-3, 3.40) faces Scott Diamond (3-2, 3.03) in the final game of the three-game series. The Twins led the season series 3-2.
-Markakis is batting .521 against Minnesota since the start of last season.
-Mauer extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He’s 6-for-9 in the two-game series.