Orioles’ three solo homers sink Smeltzer, Twins
After consecutive walk-off victories, Minnesota ran out of late-inning magic
MINNEAPOLIS — Devin Smeltzer played with Tyler Wells when the two pitchers were Twins prospects at Double-A Chattanooga, so he follows Wells’ progress and likes to see him do well.
On Sunday, not so much.
The former teammates each took the mound for different teams at Target Field on Sunday, and Wells handcuffed the Twins as the Baltimore Orioles staved off a series sweep with a 3-1 victory in front of 24,424.
“I always follow along with guys that I get along with or played with in the past. I’m happy for him,” Smeltzer said. “I don’t love seeing it against us. I’d love to see him get mashed around, just from the competitive aspect, but he’s been throwing very well. Tip your cap to that.”
Wells (7-4) didn’t give up a hit until Nick Gordon’s one-out double to right field in the fifth inning and allowed only three over six innings. He walked one and allowed only two baserunners to advance as far as second base while striking out seven as the Twins – perhaps hungover from consecutive walk-off wins on Friday and Saturday – went down quietly.
“We’ll give him credit and say he threw the ball well, but we have to bear down knowing that we’re not necessarily having the best at-bats,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’ve got to find a new plan, I think, as the game goes on. What we went into the game trying to do, we had some trouble with.”
Smeltzer (4-2) took the loss despite giving the Twins a third straight quality start, allowing three runs on six hits and walking only one. Three of those hits, however, were solo home runs.
Rougned Odor gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead with a leadoff home run in the fifth inning, and Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle started the sixth with back-to-back homers for a 3-0 lead.
Today, tip your cap to Mancini,” Smeltzer said. “I threw a pitch exactly where I wanted to and he got to it. Analytically, game plan, all that says he can’t hit that pitch, so he made an adjustment and got it.
“The one after that, I’m throwing my least-damaging pitch and trying to get ahead into a count after a home run. (Mountcastle) bum-rushed it and got a barrel to it. Again, you just tip your cap.”
That was enough for Wells and three relievers who combined for three scoreless innings. Dillon Tate got the final three outs for his second save in as many chances after Minnesota roughed up closer Jorge Lopez in the first two games of the series.
A 15th-round pick in the 2016 amateur draft, Wells was lost to Baltimore in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.
“It’s cool because this is where I thought I’d be and, obviously, I’m not,” Wells said Wells. “But, again, I think I said this last time, I think the fun part about it is playing against the guys that I came up with. … I have a lot of really strong feelings for those guys. I care about them a lot. So, to be able to go out there and compete against them is always fun.”
The Twins’ offense had just about nothing going against Wells. Gordon got the first hit, a one-out double in the fifth was stranded there. They got on the board in the six when Gilberto Celestino led off with a walk, advanced to second on a single by Luis Arraez and moved to third on Carlos Correa’s double-play grounder to short. Jorge Polanco followed with a single to right to plate Celestino and cut the Twins’ deficit to 3-1.
Minnesota had a chance to at least chip into a two-run deficit in the seventh after pinch-hitter Kyle Garlick hit a one-out single and moved to second on Alex Kirilloff’s two-out walk.
It seemed like a chance to pinch hit Byron Buxton, who leads the Twins with 21 home runs and is tied with Jorge Polanco for the RBI lead (38) and was getting a Sunday rest. Instead, Celestino batted for himself and sent a chopper to short to end the Twins last, best threat.
Baldelli said he didn’t want to use Buxton “at that point in the game.”
“Buck was ready to come up the next time around towards the end of the game,” he added. “He was loose and ready and was gonna hit. You could find a really, really good reason to hit Buck at any point in the game, probably any game where you’re not winning, but at least today he was more ready at the end, in the ninth inning.”
The Twins are trying to give Buxton regular rest to keep him healthy down the stretch, and had he hit in the seventh, he would have had to play center field because Garlick had already pinch hit for Nick Gordon. Baldelli said that that was “one small reason” he didn’t hit Buxton in the seventh.
“If you want to make moves in the fifth or six inning, you could do that, too,” he added. “Then every one of your guys that normally does start will play 162 games, maybe, and … they’ll get a lot of work if that were the policy. But in some of these games we tend to look more toward the eighth and ninth inning to get these guys hot and get these guys going and ready.”
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