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Twins escape nerve-wracking innings for sweep of Orioles

Minnesota Twins catcher Willians Astudillo (64) runs after a wild pitch in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Md. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports1 / 2
Baltimore Orioles second baseman Hanser Alberto (57) slides into the base as Minnesota Twins third baseman Ehire Adrianza (13) catches the throw in the eighth inning Sunday, April 21, 2019, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports2 / 2

BALTIMORE, Md. —As the ball flew toward him, Twins right fielder Jake Cave couldn’t see it. For a fleeting moment, it seemed as if the ball might drop, which almost assuredly would have let a pair of Orioles score and produce a walk-off win.

Cave put his glove up to block the sun and then put his arms out to the side before he found the ball, settled under it and let it fall into his glove.

That ended a tense two innings for the Twins, who saw the Orioles load the bases in both the eighth and ninth innings in what turned into a tight 4-3 win at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon, April 21.

“Those plays in day games, as we saw early on the other side, ball goes up in the air (and) you just never know what that outfielder is seeing,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "Luckily, Jake caught a good view of it.”

Earlier in the at-bat, Taylor Rogers was one ball away from walking Pedro Severino with the bases loaded to force in the tying run. And earlier in the inning, Eddie Rosario cut off a ball in left field and fired it in quickly, forcing the Orioles to halt Richie Martin at third rather than send him home.

“I think it saved the game,” Rosario said.

So did his manager, who used the same words — “saved the game” — in crediting his left fielder.

“For him to cut that ball off and get it in, I think that ball gets to the wall most of the time in this game and I think he was determined to not let that happen,” Baldelli said.

An inning before, after Trevor May had pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, he allowed two hits to begin the eighth. Trevor Hildenberger was summoned with runners on the bases, the role he has played all season.

And as he’s done most of this season, Hildenberger stranded them.

“That’s what you get paid to do,” Hildenberger said. “That’s why you’re relievers. You’re supposed to come in in those tight spots and get big outs. So far this season, I’ve been able to do that.”

Despite the nerve-wracking final two frames, the Twins held onto a lead for the entire game.

Baltimore’s Dwight Smith Jr. lost a ball in left field to begin the game, allowing Jorge Polanco to reach third. Willians Astudillo drove him in with a double.

The Twins (12-7) added another run in the third on a Cave single, which drove in Nelson Cruz, and in the fourth. After Byron Buxton doubled and reached third on a Polanco fly out, Astudillo knocked him in with a sacrifice fly.

Four runs was enough for starter Kyle Gibson, who had his best outing of the year. He pitched a season-high six innings and gave up a season-low two runs.

Gibson had been hit hard the third time through the order in his first three outings, with opponents hitting .667 in those situations, but he finished his day Sunday with seven consecutive outs.

“It’s just about executing pitches,” Gibson said. “You get that third time through and you’ve got guys that have seen more than likely all of your pitches and then it becomes more important to execute the right pitch at the right time.”

The Twins walked away from Baltimore with their first three-game sweep of the season, bouncing back after they dropped three of four at home to Toronto.

“It took several of our players to come up with big, big efforts and performances and make big plays for us to have a chance to stay in that game and win that game and that was a true team effort and a team right there,” Baldelli said. “It was beautiful.”