BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles entered the final month of the regular season with the second-best record in the major leagues, a sizable American League East lead and their offense catching fire at the right time.
Following a 12-8 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards — a victory that included three Baltimore home runs, one a grand slam from J.J. Hardy — the club is a season-high 23 games over .500.
Every Orioles starter had at least one hit, and eight of the nine scored at least one run. Caleb Joseph had a career-high four hits, and Nick Markakis and David Lough had three apiece.
The victory gave Baltimore its 11th series win in the last 13, and the Orioles can get their first four-game series sweep of the season with a win in Monday afternoon’s series finale. They have outscored the Twins 24-11 in the first three games of the series.
The Orioles (79-56) also extended their AL East lead to nine games over the New York Yankees, tying their largest lead of the season. And as the calendar turns to September, they can claim a magic number of 19 to clinch their first division title in 17 years.
“I think this team does a really good job of controlling what’s in the clubhouse, showing up every day and expecting to win,” said Ryan Flaherty, who hit a three-run homer in the third inning. “And that’s kind of the attitude of the team.”
The Orioles scored seven runs in the sixth inning — their most in an inning this season — capped by Hardy’s fourth career grand slam.
With the Orioles leading 6-2 and runners on second and third following Adam Jones’s two-run double, Twins reliever Anthony Swarzak intentionally walked Chris Davis to face Hardy.
But Hardy crushed a 2-0 fastball over the fence in left for his ninth homer of the season. Hardy is hitting .308 (20 for 65) with five homers and 15 RBI in his last 18 games.
Baltimore grabbed a 4-0 lead in the third inning on Nelson Cruz’s major league-leading 35th homer, a solo blast, and Flaherty’s three-run shot.
Newcomer Jimmy Paredes made it 12-5 on a two-out, bases-loaded single in the seventh.
Despite an 11-2 lead after six innings, the Orioles were forced to bring in left-hander Zach Britton to close out the game in the ninth.