Twins 9, Orioles 0
Before Baltimore cleanup hitter Miguel Tejada had stepped into the batter's box for the first time Wednesday night, the Orioles faced the daunting task of trying to make up a seven-run deficit against perhaps the American League's best pitcher.
It never got any better for the Orioles, who would go on to lose, 9-0, to the Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Rookie Erik Bedard allowed seven runs in the second inning, though Cy Young candidate Johan Santana needed only one.
"You put yourself in a hole with a guy like [Santana], it's tough," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said.
Santana, the league leader in strikeouts, pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just five hits while striking out nine to improve to 17-6 for the Central Division leaders.
As for Bedard, his 74-pitch outing accounted for just two innings and a loss, dropping him to 6-10.
"He has a quality arm, but he has to get his pitch count down," Mazzilli said of Bedard.
Bedard's ERA did not suffer any irreparable damage because six of the runs were unearned, though the young lefty did not leave without fault.
During the inning, Bedard walked one batter, hit another, allowed two singles, two sacrifice flies, a two-run double to Justin Morneau and a two-run home run to Matthew LeCroy.
Bedard escaped with his ERA intact because of an error by third baseman Melvin Mora, who dropped a one-out line drive by Shannon Stewart. Mora, seemingly intent upon doubling up Michael Cuddyer at third base, took his eyes off the ball, which ticked off his glove as he moved toward third.
Lew Ford followed with a sacrifice fly that theoretically could have ended the inning. Instead, the Twins scored six more runs. The inning took so much time that Santana stretched in the dugout to keep loose.
Dark skies with the portent of torrential rain threatened to wash out Wednesday's game. Instead, it was Santana who wreaked havoc on Orioles hitters.
He did not allow a hit until a leadoff single to Tejada in the fifth inning and did not allow an extra-base hit. Only two Baltimore runners reached second base. And he did not give the Orioles a free base runner, allowing no walks.
Hitters swung past his fastball and flailed through his change-up. Though his fastball reached as high as 94 mph, the change-up was the most devastating pitch. Tejada, Baltimore's most lethal hitter, could not solve it. He struck out once on it and missed several times in subsequent at-bats.
One of Tejada's two hits against Santana came on a slider. The other on a fastball.
Orioles first baseman David Segui said Santana succeeds because he doesn't throw a pitch in the middle of the plate. Even pitcher Rick Bauer, who threw four innings of scoreless relief, was impressed.
"That's probably one of the nastiest performances I've seen all year," Bauer said.
Santana, mostly unknown until this season, smiled when told of the compliments coming out of the Orioles' clubhouse.
"It is good for me to know people and other players know I can do some damage," Santana said.
Santana is 10-0 since the all-star break, allowing just 41 hits and 17 walks while striking out 97 over 78 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 3.78 to 2.85. In his previous outing, Santana carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Kansas City before allowing a soft single to left by Desi Relaford.
Santana has not allowed a run in 151/3 innings.
A strong case can be made that Santana, just 25 years old, is the best pitcher in baseball.
"That's a no-brainer," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "Right now he's the most devastating pitcher in the game."
Orioles Note: Not even an apology might save closer Jorge Julio from a suspension. Prior to Wednesday night's game, Julio appeared in the Minnesota clubhouse and apologized to Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire and infielder Augie Ojeda for throwing a first-pitch fastball in the ninth inning that flew over Ojeda's head, resulting in the Baltimore closer's ejection.
After Tuesday's game, Ojeda and Gardenhire both seethed, claiming Julio intended to hit the infielder out of frustration for allowing a game-deciding two-run home run to Cuddyer on the previous pitch. About an hour before Wednesday's game, Julio approached both Gardenhire and Ojeda.
"That was the right thing to do," Gardenhire said. "It's always nice to see what a kid is thinking. That was good enough for me. The kid made a mistake and he apologized for it. The team appreciated it."
But Julio's apology will have no bearing on a possible suspension. Major League Baseball officials are reviewing the incident and could levy a fine or suspension, according to league spokesman Matthew Gould.