MINNEAPOLIS — Tommy Hunter arrived in Minnesota with a chance for redemption. The Baltimore Orioles right-hander had been sent to Class AAA Norfolk twice this season, but when the club needed a spot starter, dispatched Hunter to the Midwest.
Hunter knew the stakes. A quality start would likely allow him a lengthier stay in the Orioles’ starting rotation. Above all, it would give the Orioles a much-needed win and their overworked bullpen a break.
The 26-year-old Hunter gave the Orioles their longest start in 10 games, holding the Minnesota Twins to one run on six hits over 7 1/3 innings, leading Baltimore to a 2-1 win in front of an announced crowd of 33,195 at Target Field.
It was just the Orioles’ second quality start in seven games, and the longest outing by a Baltimore starting pitcher since Chris Tillman went 8 1/3 innings on July 4 in Seattle.
The win snapped the Orioles’ three-game losing streak. Baltimore (47-44) came into the night having lost six of its last seven – and their grasp on the second AL wild-card spot.
It was also the just the Orioles’ eighth win in their last 25 games, but it put Baltimore back in second place in the AL East.
Hunter, who was optioned to Norfolk for the second time on June 30, allowed fewer than five earned runs in just one of his last five major league starts.
But on Wednesday, his only blemish was a fourth-inning solo homer by Josh Willingham, who took a 1-1 cutter into the bullpen area beyond left-center field.
It was Hunter’s best major league start in nearly three months. He allowed just one earned run just one other time this season, when he held the Blue Jays to a single run on three hits over six innings in a 2-1 win on April 24.
Jim Johnson converted his 27th save in the ninth, needing a diving play from Mark Reynolds on Brian Dozier’s pop bunt with no outs and the leadoff man on first base.