AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Mark Reynolds' two-run single in the eighth inning backed a strong performance from Wei-Yin Chen and rallied the Baltimore Orioles to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Chen (8-5) gave up three runs and six hits with five strikeouts in seven innings for his first win since June 17, and Jim Johnson picked up his 28th save in 30 chances for the Orioles, who came back to split the series after dropping the first two games.
Cole De Vries allowed one run and five hits with five strikeouts in six innings for the Twins, who led 3-2 going into the eighth inning. But Minnesota's normally reliable bullpen faltered, with Anthony Swarzak giving up a soft single to Reynolds that put Baltimore in front.
The Twins had a chance to tie it in the bottom of the frame, but Brian Dozier popped out with a runner on third to end the inning.
Chris Davis hit a solo homer and Nick Markakis had a hit and an RBI for Baltimore.
Alex Burnett (3-3) pitched 1-3 of an inning and was charged with both runs that Reynolds drove in to take the loss. Justin Morneau had two hits for the Twins.
Chen was a little shaky in the first inning, giving up an RBI single to Josh Willingham and a double to Trevor Plouffe that made it 2-0 Twins. But he settled down after that, giving the Orioles a steady, solid performance that they've come to expect from the Taiwanese rookie.
Chen gave up a sacrifice fly to Alexi Casilla in the fourth inning to fall behind 3-1, but otherwise kept the Twins off balance with an array of breaking balls and off-speed pitches. He stranded six runners on base and kept the ball in the yard after giving up seven homers in his previous five starts, including three to the Angels on July 8.
Chen is the only Orioles starter who has remained in the rotation for the entire season, and unfortunately for him, he has also come to expect little run support when he takes the mound. The Orioles had failed to score at least four runs in eight of his previous 11 starts and Chen left trailing 3-2 after seven.
It was looking like more of the same on Thursday against De Vries, whose only mistake was a soaring homer to Davis in the second inning.
The Orioles scratched another one across in the seventh when Davis scored on a throwing error from Plouffe at third base. For the second time in the series, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire decided to walk slumping J.J. Hardy so his left-handed pitcher _ this time it was Brian Duensing _ could pitch to Jim Thome.
The risky strategy paid off both times. Duensing got Thome to ground into a double play with the bases loaded to escape with a 3-2 lead.
NOTES: Gardenhire was feeling better after leaving the game Wednesday night because of a stomach bug. ... Twins RHP Matt Capps, who hit the DL on Tuesday with irritation in his rotator cuff, will likely be out for a while. "He's not even going to pick up a baseball until he's healthy," Gardenhire said. ... The Orioles head to Cleveland next, with RHP Miguel Gonzalez (1-1, 2.59) getting the start for Baltimore on Friday night against RHP Derek Lowe (8-7, 4.43). ... The Twins leave town for Kansas City, where Nick Blackburn (4-5, 8.10) will make his return to the rotation against RHP Luke Hochevar (6-8, 5.16). Blackburn was recalled from Triple-A this week after making two starts. "We need him desperately," Gardenhire said.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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