AP Sports Writer
BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles weren’t throwing bats or breaking chairs in the clubhouse after failing to complete a sweep of the Minnesota Twins.
After falling 6-4 on Monday, the first-place Orioles preferred to remember the three games beforehand rather than lament the momentum-stopping defeat.
“We knew it was going to be a long series coming in,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “Getting three of four is big. It’s hard to sweep four-game series. You know, we battled back, gave ourselves a chance to get the W and came up short.”
Nick Hundley’s three-run homer in the seventh inning tied the game at 3. After the Twins went up 6-3 in the eighth, Nelson Cruz hit his major-league leading 36th home run in the ninth.
It wasn’t enough, but the Orioles still hold a 8 1/2-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East after winning three of four in a second straight series.
“You’d like to finish it off, but the Twins are a very proud organization,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You can tell they’re an up-and-coming offensive team. If you look at some of the guys they’re missing and some of the guys they’ve got coming, they’re going to be a force in the American League.”
Joe Mauer had four RBIs and Phil Hughes didn’t allow an earned run over eight innings to help the Twins earn their second win in nine games.
Hughes (15-9) gave up five hits, no walks and three unearned runs. The right-hander has allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his last six starts.
“He’s been huge,” Mauer said. “Whenever we give him the ball, we feel like we have a real good chance of winning.”
Following a 4-14 season with the Yankees last year, Hughes has accounted for 25 percent of Minnesota’s 60 wins.
“I feel like I got away with a lot of mistakes today,” the right-hander said. “But I had good enough stuff to overcome that and was able to make some pitches. That was kind of the story.”
After Hughes left, Glen Perkins gave up a leadoff homer to Cruz before getting three straight outs for his 33rd save.
Mauer tripled in two runs in the sixth inning and added a two-run single in the eighth to put Minnesota ahead for good.
Hughes and Orioles rookie Kevin Gausman (7-7) matched zeroes until the sixth inning, when the Twins took a 3-0 lead.
Danny Santana and Brian Dozier hit one-out singles before Mauer hit an opposite-field liner to left that bounced off the wall toward center. Mauer ended up with his second triple of the season, and Kennys Vargas followed with a sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, a single and a throwing error by third baseman Trevor Plouffe preceded Hundley’s two-out drive into the left-field seats.
The deadlock didn’t last long. Gausman gave up a leadoff walk in the eighth, and an error by third baseman Jimmy Paredes put runners on second and third with no outs. Mauer singled off Andrew Miller, took second on the throw to the plate and scored on a single by Vargas.
“It kind of (stinks) that I walked the leadoff guy in the eighth inning,” Gausman said. “That kind of came back to bite us.”
Gausman allowed five hits and four earned runs in a career-high 7 1-3 innings, losing his third straight start.
“I thought I threw the ball where I wanted to,” he said.
Twins: C Kurt Suzuki, who sat out Sunday’s game after taking a foul tip in the chin on Saturday night, returned to the starting lineup.
Orioles: 1B Steve Pearce missed a third straight game with an abdominal strain, but Showalter said Pearce is improving and should be back in a day or two. Also, SS J.J. Hardy was pulled after the seventh inning with back spasms.
“I sure hope I’ll be in there (Tuesday),” Hardy said. “I think getting out of there today was probably the right decision.”
Twins: The Twins return home to face the White Sox on Tuesday night. Minnesota starter Tommy Milone is 1-0 with an 0.86 ERA against Chicago.
Orioles: Baltimore opens a three-game interleague series against visiting Cincinnati. The Orioles haven’t lost two in a row at home since June 28-29.
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