BALTIMORE (AP) — J.J. Hardy hit his fourth career grand slam during a seven-run sixth inning, Nelson Cruz connected for his major league-leading 35th home run and Ryan Flaherty also homered, leading the Baltimore Orioles over the Minnesota Twins 12-8 on Sunday.
Caleb Joseph had a career-high four hits for the Orioles, who extended their AL East lead over the second-place New York Yankees to nine games.
Baltimore will seek to complete its first four-game home sweep of the Twins on Monday. The Orioles did, however, take all five games of a home series with Minnesota in 1966.
Wei-Yin Chen (14-4) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander is 7-1 in 10 starts since June 28.
Minnesota made it interesting by scoring three runs in the ninth before Zach Britton served up a double-play ball for his 31st save.
Trevor Plouffe and Danny Santana hit two-run homers for the Twins, who have lost seven of eight and been outscored 24-11 in this series.
Ricky Nolasco (5-10) gave up eight runs and 12 hits over five-plus innings. He has lost four straight and is winless on the road since May 30.
The Orioles left the bases loaded in the first inning and stranded runners on the corners in the second. In the third, however, Nolasco couldn’t escape.
Cruz homered, Chris Davis doubled and Hardy walked before Flaherty sent a 1-0 pitch over the 25-foot scoreboard in right field.
Plouffe homered in the fourth before the Orioles went up 11-2 with their most productive inning of the year.
After Adam Jones doubled in two runs to chase Nolasco, Anthony Swarzak intentionally walked Davis to load the bases for Hardy. On a 2-0 count, Hardy hit a drive into the left-field seats for his first slam since May 15, 2011.
It was the sixth grand slam of the season for Baltimore, the second in the series.
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