BALTIMORE (AP) — What’s 21-year-old rookie Byron Buxton doing in the middle of a playoff chase?
Quite a bit actually, in terms of helping the Minnesota Twins enhance their position in the AL wild-card standings.
Buxton picked up his first major league RBI with a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, and the Twins extended their dominance of the Baltimore Orioles with a 3-2 victory Saturday night.
After overcoming a two-run deficit in the eighth inning on Friday night, Minnesota handed Chris Tillman (9-8) his first loss since May 31 despite trailing 1-0 in the sixth and 2-1 in the seventh.
Recalled from the minors earlier in the week to replace injured outfielder Aaron Hicks, Buxton has gone 5 for 15 in three games and was instrumental in Minnesota’s second straight comeback win over the Orioles.
After Baltimore went ahead 2-1 in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by J.J. Hardy, Minnesota took the lead for the first time in the seventh.
Tillman issued a one-out walk to Eddie Rosario, who advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Torii Hunter. Kurt Suzuki followed with a squeeze bunt down the first-base line that left Tillman no choice but to throw to first as Rosario crossed the plate.
Brad Brach entered and walked Eduardo Escobar intentionally before Buxton lined a single to left. Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, came in hitting .208 (10 for 48) over 13 games in his first major league season.
In this game, the rookie laid down a sacrifice bunt in the sixth to help the Twins draw even, then delivered the decisive hit in the seventh.
“It was nice to see him get his first RBI in a big situation,” said Minnesota manager Paul Molitor, who turned 59 on Saturday.
After spending much of the season with Triple-A Rochester, Buxton was delighted to contribute to the big league club.
“When all the hard work you put in in the cage results in a base hit to win the game, that’s all you can ask for,” he said. “I received a lot of support to put me in such a position.”
The Twins have won seven straight over Baltimore dating to last September. They are 6-0 against the Orioles this season, outscoring them 39-15. With a victory Sunday, Minnesota will complete its first four-game sweep of Baltimore since August 2007.
“We have an opportunity tomorrow to do something that doesn’t happen very often,” Molitor said. “Just three days ago we were a couple games below .500. You keep pushing and trying to hang around.”
The Orioles had won five of six before running into the Twins, who have enhanced their own position in the wild-card hunt while stalling Baltimore’s momentum.
“We haven’t been playing baseball. They’ve been beating us, outhitting us in key situations,” Orioles third baseman Manny Machado said.
Casey Fien (4-5) pitched 1 1-3 innings of relief to earn his second win in two nights. He entered in the sixth and struck out Machado with the bases loaded and two outs.
Kevin Jepsen got three straight outs for his eighth save.
Baltimore went up 1-0 in the second inning when Steve Clevenger singled and came home on a double by Henry Urrutia.
After giving up a walk and bunt single in the first, Tillman retired 14 straight batters before Escobar led off the sixth with a double. Escobar advanced on a bunt and scored when Brian Dozier bounced a single up the middle.
Tillman had won a career-tying seven straight decisions. That streak is over, while the Twins’ run against Baltimore remains firmly intact.
“We just didn’t score many runs,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He pitched well enough to win.”
Twins: Closer Glen Perkins, who’s been sidelined since Aug. 17 with a neck injury, threw on the side Saturday and will have a bullpen session Sunday. He hopes to return Tuesday. … RHP Phil Hughes (lower back inflammation) is still experiencing pain. Manager Paul Molitor said it’s “not turning around as fast as we had hoped.”
Orioles: Steve Pearce (left oblique) was slated to begin his rehabilitation assignment by playing 1B and batting third for Double-A Bowie.
Twins: Mike Pelfrey (6-7, 3.62 ERA) makes his 24th start in the series finale. The Twins are 12-11 in his starts, and he’s 2-0 lifetime against Baltimore.
Orioles: Kevin Gausman (2-5, 4.48 ERA) seeks to snap a run of three straight losing starts. He’s 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his career versus the Twins.
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