By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) — Getting back home has made all the difference for the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore tries to stay hot Friday night in the first of four against the last-place Minnesota Twins.
The Orioles (76-56) have been especially good at Camden Yards over the last two months, going 18-6 to post the league’s best home record since June 30. After closing a 4-5 road trip with three straight defeats to the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore took three of four from Tampa Bay to open an 11-game homestand.
Steve Pearce homered again and J.J. Hardy delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning in Thursday’s 5-4 victory. Pearce is batting .333 with five homers, five doubles and 11 runs scored during an 11-game hitting streak.
“To win a four-game series in the division, that’s huge,” reliever Andrew Miller said after picking up the victory. “Hopefully we can carry some momentum out of that.”
While the Orioles would appear to have a big edge over the Twins (59-74), they dropped two of three at Minnesota from May 2-4. Joe Mauer has hit .448 with five extra-base hits and seven RBIs as the Twins have taken five of the last eight meetings.
Minnesota had lost four in a row and eight of 11 before breaking through with Thursday’s 11-5, 10-inning win at Central-leading Kansas City. Brian Dozier and Jordan Schafer combined for six hits and seven RBIs as the Twins bounced back from consecutive one-run efforts.
“We hung in there and finally had the big inning,” said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team went 8 for 17 with runners in scoring position. “It was a nice win for us after two tough losses.”
Dozier has hit safely in seven straight, going 10 for 25 with five doubles, eight RBIs, nine runs and nine walks.
Minnesota’s Trevor May (0-3, 8.79 ERA) hasn’t seen anything go his way since getting called up Aug. 9. Opponents are hitting .387 against the right-hander, who’s posted a 2.67 WHIP in losing each of his first three starts.
May was tagged for five runs and 11 hits over 5 1-3 innings as the Twins fell 8-6 in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader against Detroit. He threw 99 pitches and didn’t allow a walk, a good sign after issuing 11 in his first two starts spanning 6 2-3 innings.
“I felt comfortable throwing the ball over the plate, and not giving up any free passes was definitely a plus,” he told MLB’s official website. “From here, it’s about stringing those zeros together and getting some ‘Ws’ in the win column.”
May will be opposed by Miguel Gonzalez (6-7, 3.75), who lost 2-1 at the Cubs on Sunday. He allowed both runs and six hits over 6 1-3 innings in his first start following a two-week minor league stint.
Gonzalez, 2-2 with a 2.49 ERA over his last seven outings, has yielded two runs or fewer in all but one of those appearances. He gave up three runs, six hits and a season high-tying four walks over 4 2-3 innings in his only career appearance against Minnesota, a 5-2 defeat May 4.
Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe is 5 for his last 35 on the road. However, he’s a career .318 hitter against the Orioles, his highest mark against any AL club.
Updated August 29, 2014
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