BALTIMORE (AP) — The Minnesota Twins aren’t playing like a team content to muddle through rebuilding.
Two series into the season, a team that lost more than 90 games in each of the past two seasons has a pair of series victories and some newfound confidence.
Aaron Hicks ended a 0-for-13 skid with a tiebreaking RBI single in a two-run seventh inning, rallying the Twins past the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 on Sunday.
“It’s early in the season but our goal is to win series,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Get our fans back and excited about this baseball team in a positive way. … This was a really good series and although it’s early in the season, we have to continue this for a while.”
J.J. Hardy homered for the Orioles, who dropped the final two games of the weekend series and fell to 0-3 in one-run games after winning 29 of 38 last year.
It was Baltimore’s first series loss to the Twins since July 2010 — and it hinged on the two-run rally and a ball that got lost in the sun in Minnesota’s two-run third inning.
Trailing 3-2, the Twins started their comeback when Jason Hammel (1-1) hit Trevor Plouffe on the left elbow leading off the seventh and Wilkin Ramirez followed with a single. After Brian Dozier’s sacrifice bunt, pinch-hitter Chris Parmelee tied it with a sacrifice fly and Hicks got his go-ahead hit.
“I was just trying to get a pitch to drive,” Hicks said. “I was able to get it over the guy’s head. As long as I got the hit and RBI, that’s all that matters.”
Gardenhire said Hicks, a rookie who had never played above Double-A before this year, wasn’t pressing despite the early season slump.
“It’s not easy for him,” Gardenhire said. “He wants to get hits. To come up big in that situation was good for us and him.”
Anthony Swarzak (1-0), activated from the disabled list before the game after missing time with fractured ribs, pitched 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief.
Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for his second save.
Hardy’s two-run homer gave the Orioles the lead in a three-run second. Adam Jones drew a leadoff walk and one out later, Hardy lined a changeup from Pedro Hernandez into the seats in left-center for his second home run.
Nolan Reimold then singled, went to second on a groundout, Alexi Casilla walked and Nick Markakis made it 3-0 with a single.
The Twins loaded the bases against Hammel in the third on a pair of walks and a hit batter, and the Orioles starter appeared to be out of the inning when Justin Morneau lofted a two-out fly to center. But Jones lost the ball in the sun, and it dropped for a two-run double.
“It went in the sun and (I) missed it,” Jones said. “Should have got around it better. Mistake, cost us a couple runs. Hammel’s out there giving his heart out and a play like that, I got to make it. The first two were in the sun and I caught ’em, the last one I didn’t, so it’s my fault. I got to catch the ball.”
Hernandez, recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start in place of the injured Cole De Vries, allowed three runs and four hits over five innings in his second major league start. He walked three and struck out three and said he wasn’t nervous in his 2013 debut.
“Not really,” Hernandez said. “This game is for men, this game is not for a child.”
Hammel worked 6 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and four hits. He walked three and struck out three.
“He should have been through six scoreless except for the sun,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But that’s not going away. We just weren’t able to overcome it. We had some people out there, just couldn’t get a hit. Hits were at a premium today.”
NOTES: De Vries (right forearm strain) was placed on the 15-day disabled list and LHP Tyler Robertson was optioned to Triple-A. … Two injured Orioles on the DL — DH Wilson Betemit (right knee sprain) and 2B Brian Roberts (right hamstring strain) — will report to the team’s spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla., this week for rehabilitation. … When the Orioles play in Boston on Monday afternoon, it will be their third home opener of the season, following their own on Friday and the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the Rays on April 1. … Carly Rae Jepsen of “Call Me Maybe” fame threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Hammel hit two batters, matching his total from 20 starts in 2012. … Reimold left the game with right hamstring tightness after six innings. After the game, Reimold said he thought he’d be ready to play Monday, but Showalter was behind closed doors discussing contingency plans. … Showalter said RHP Luis Ayala went to a local hospital late in the game with an unspecified illness and would not accompany the team to Boston on Sunday.
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