BALTIMORE (AP) — The Minnesota Twins put on an offensive show that was good enough to beat most teams.
It didn’t come close to offsetting a long-ball barrage by the Baltimore Orioles.
J.J. Hardy contributed his fourth career grand slam to a seven-run sixth inning, Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 35th home run and Ryan Flaherty also connected for Baltimore in a 12-8 victory Sunday.
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. Minnesota yielded 18 hits and at one point trailed 11-2.
“It’s a great-hitting baseball team over there,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “If you get the ball out over the plate they’re going to kill you.”
Minnesota lost 9-1 on Friday night and dropped a 3-2 decision on Saturday before absorbing another beating on Sunday.
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.
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.
“You are going to make mistakes. There are days you are going to get away with them and days you’re not,” the right-hander said. “This team is very dangerous, especially in this ballpark, and they showed that today.”
Wei-Yin Chen (14-4) allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings for Baltimore. 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.
“We’re not a team that’s just going to roll over,” Plouffe said.
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.
“They’re a good all-around team and that’s probably why they’re in first place,” Plouffe said.
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.
“Each time you win, you feel like you put yourself in a position each and every day to be closer to the goal,” Joseph said. “The goal is to play in October.”
That won’t happen for the Twins, but the expanded roster might make September more tolerable for Gardenhire.
“Our bullpen has been taking a beating,” he said. “Some of these call-ups are going to help us and give us more depth.”
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes (14-9), the winningest pitcher on the staff, starts Monday. He’s the last Twins pitcher to beat the Orioles – on May 4.
Orioles: Rookie Kevin Gausman (7-6) makes his first career start against Minnesota.
Twins: Sitting in his office and holding Baltimore’s lineup card, Gardenhire joked about the Orioles: “This team is so confident, they’re going with (Saturday starting pitcher Chris) Tillman again today.”
Orioles: Alejandro De Aza, acquired in a Saturday night trade with the White Sox, did not arrive by game time. So David Lough started in LF. De Aza and Chen were added to the roster Sunday; C Steve Clevenger and P T.J. McFarland were optioned to Class A Aberdeen.
Santana and Kennys Vargas combined for 79 hits in August, most by a pair of rookie teammates in one month since Fred Lynn and Jim Rice totaled 77 for Boston in 1975.
This was the third game in the majors this season in which every starter got a hit, STATS said. The Red Sox and Tigers did it on June 7, and the Cubs and White Sox did it on May 8.