MINNEAPOLIS — After suffering a sweep against Milwaukee earlier this week, it looked like the Orioles were going to completely collapse and enter the all star break with a hefty losing streak. That looked even more likely after the O’s dropped the first two games of their series against the Twins. Somehow they turned it around and split the series 2-2, ending a five-game losing streak.

The Orioles struck first in Thursday’s opener with a two-run homer by Mark Trumbo. The lead did not last long as the Twins scored six runs in the third. This would be the only offense necessary for Minnesota as they went on to win 6-4.

The O’s were able to chip away at the Twins’ lead in the fourth and sixth innings but ultimately fell short. Dylan Bundy was on the mound and surrendered all six runs. Despite the terrible third inning, Bundy was able to pitch through five frames and turn it over to the bullpen. Four relievers combined to close out the final four innings and gave up just three hits.

Friday’s game played out very similar to the first game, but was far more disappointing.  Once again the Orioles were able to take an early lead on a surplus of offense. Seth Smith and Manny Machado started the fireworks with back-to-back home runs in the first inning. In the third inning, Machado launched his second homer of the game and Trey Mancini registered an RBI single to make it a 6-0 game.

Through the first three innings, the O’s looked unstoppable. Kevin Gausman cruised through his first few innings with ease but ran into a jam in the fourth. After loading the bases, Gausman gave up a pair of runs but settled down and got out of the inning with a comfortable lead still intact.

The fifth inning was even worse for Gausman as he gave up two more runs without getting a single out. Brian Dozier led the inning off with a triple, while Robbie Grossman and Max Kepler followed with a double and single to make it a two-run game.

Buck Showalter gave Gausman the hook and opted to bring Miguel Castro in to try to stop the bleeding. The 22-year-old reliever has been thrown into the fire a handful of times this season and managed to escape them with great poise. On Friday he was not so successful as he immediately gave up a game-tying double and the go-ahead run soon after.

Just like the first game, one big inning was all the Twins needed as they closees out a 9-6 comeback win.

The Orioles finally found some success in game three. They didn’t take an early lead but they held the Twins’ offense to just one run. Wade Miley turned in a solid outing as he tossed 5.2 innings while giving up the lone run on eight hits.

Jonathan Schoop and Trumbo both homered, while Machado added a RBI double to help give the O’s five runs on the afternoon.

In the series finale, the Orioles offense continued to do what they have done in the previous three games and took an early lead. A three-run homer by Adam Jones jumpstarted the scoring and the O’s found themselves up 5-0 in the second inning.

It’s not hard to guess what happened next though. That’s right, the Orioles gave almost all of those five runs back in the bottom of the second. Having Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound certainly didn’t help as the inconsistent pitcher gave up four runs while watching his pitch count skyrocket.

If there was anything for Jimenez and the Orioles to hang their hat on, it was the fact that they still held a slim lead. A few innings passed without much noise from either offense until the Orioles appeared to have had enough of the nonsense in this series. Adam Jones served as the catalyst once again when he hit a solo home run in the fifth inning. Caleb Joseph followed that up with a two-RBI single and then scored from first off of a double by Ruben Tejada.

This second burst of offense erased the Twins’ second inning comeback efforts and gave the Orioles a 9-4 lead.  It was now up to the bullpen to maintain this sizable lead. Richard Bleier threw 2.2 innings of relief while giving up just one run before being replaced by Castro and Zach Britton. The 2016 All-Star, after coming off the disabled list earlier this week, closed out the final inning on 12 pitches.

Jones’ three-run homer on Sunday capped off a great series for the Gold-Glove centerfielder. Jones went 5-for-14 at the plate in with five RBI’s in Minneapolis.

This brings an end to a wild first half of the 2017 season. The inconsistent pitching became too much to overcome and the Orioles fell from the top of the division into the basement. Management has shown no signs of the O’s being sellers in the coming months despite removing themselves from serious contention in the past few weeks.

The Orioles will start the second half of the season next Friday with a lengthy home stand that features matchups against the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, and Houston Astros.

Image Credit: ESPN