MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Steve Johnson needed to have an effective performance in his first start of the season to stay in the Orioles’ rotation.
But as the game wore on and the winds picked up in chilly Target Field, he lost his grip on the ball, the lead, and eventually his spot on the roster.
The Twins rallied from a 3-0 deficit, knocking Johnson out after four innings, on the way to an 8-5 win. After the game, Johnson was sent back to Triple-A Norfolk, and the Orioles will make a corresponding move before Sunday’s series finale in Minneapolis.
It was just the second loss in seven games for Baltimore, which fell out of a first-place tie in the AL East. The Yankees are a game up on the Orioles after beating Kansas City 3-2.
Johnson, the ninth different starting pitcher the Orioles have used this season, looked solid in allowing a hit and a walk in his first two innings. But his night then began to unravel.
“I made a couple close pitches in the third and gave up a couple doubles,” said Johnson (0-1), who began the season on the disabled list with a right lat strain.
“In the fourth inning, I lost command, lost the feel for the pitches,” he said. “You just got to make a pitch, and I just didn’t do it.”
The game-time temperature was 54 degrees, but a 25-mile per hour wind made it feel a bit cooler by the time Johnson gave up two runs in the third and four in the fourth.
“It’s tough to get a feel, the balls are slick,” said Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. “It doesn’t always show up on bases on balls, either, it shows up being wild in the strike zone. You don’t get a feel for a change-up and you elevate it.”
The Orioles’ offense picked up where they left off Friday night, when they rallied from a 6-0 deficit for a 9-6 win in 10 innings. In the top of the first, run-scoring hits by Nick Markakis and Chris Davis, followed by Matt Wieters’ sacrifice fly staked the O’s and Johnson to a 3-0 lead. After the Twins scored a pair in the third, Baltimore came right back in the top of the fourth on Wieters’ fifth homer of the year.
Johnson seemed to be in control by getting two outs and allowing just one runner to start the fifth. But the next six Minnesota batters reached base, three of them on walks, allowing the Twins to grab the 6-3 lead and end the night for Johnson.
After the Twins took a 6-3 lead, Baltimore cut the gap to two runs on Manny Machardo’s RBI single in the sixth. Minnesota countered in the bottom of the inning on Ryan Doumit’s two-run homer into Target Field’s second deck.
Twins starter Vance Worley won his first game since August 1, 2013 and first in the American League, wobbling through five and 1-3 innings and 111 pitches. Worley (1-4) was touched for 11 hits and five earned runs, walking one and striking out one and settled down somewhat after the rocky first inning.
“After that I went out there and I wasn’t thinking so much. I’m here for a reason. I got to the big leagues pitching and I don’t need to think too much about what I need to do out there, just make my pitches,” Worley said.
Worley got a big boost from the Twins’ bullpen, which gave up six runs in Friday’s loss. Brian Duensing came on with one out and runners on first and second in the sixth and got Markakis to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Duensing and Casey Fien continued to keep the O’s off the board in the seventh and eighth. Jared Burton, temporarily the Twins’ closer while Glen Perkins recovers from a sore left side, picked up his first save of the season.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each had three hits for the Twins, who won for the fifth time in seven games. Doumit’s home run was his third of the season.
NOTES: To make room for Johnson on the roster, Baltimore optioned RHP Alex Burnett to Triple-A Norfolk. … Minnesota closer Glen Perkins is day to day with soreness in his left side. … With Twins LF Josh Willingham getting the day off, Doumit hit third for the first time since Sept 16, 2011, when he was with Pittsburgh. … Wei-Yin Chen (2-3, 3.40) is scheduled to start for Baltimore Sunday against Minnesota’s Scott Diamond (3-2, 3.03).
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)