AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS - For as long as Ron Gardenhire has been around, and perhaps even longer, the Minnesota Twins have lived by a mantra of keeping starting pitchers to 100 pitches or so at a maximum.
After watching his normally reliable bullpen falter late against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, Gardenhire said it may be time to rethink that approach.
Mark Reynolds' two-run single in the eighth inning backed a strong performance from Wei-Yin Chen and rallied the Orioles to a 4-3 victory over the Twins.
Cole De Vries allowed one run and five hits with five strikeouts in six innings for the Twins, but the right-hander was pulled with a pitch count of 96 and a bunch of lefties coming up for Baltimore in the seventh. Alex Burnett (3-3) has been very good this season, but he walked two runners in the eighth and Reynolds blooped a single to center field to put the Orioles on top.
The Twins lost for just the fifth time in 38 games when leading after seven innings, and Gardenhire thinks the work load brought on by too many short starts might be taking its toll.
"We have to get deeper starts," Gardenhire said. "Maybe that's stretching pitchers out to 115 or 120 pitches for our starters. I don't know if that's right either. But we have to figure out a way to get seven or eight innings so we're not getting three and four innings out of our bullpen every night or we'll beat those guys up too much."
Burnett said the walks were just the result of a bad day and had nothing to do with fatigue.
"I'm not worn out," Burnett said. "There's no excuse for what happened today. I walked those two guys. No excuse for that."
Chen (8-5) gave up three runs and six hits with five strikeouts in seven innings for his first win since June 17, and Jim Johnson picked up his 28th save in 30 chances for the Orioles, who came back to split the series after dropping the first two games.
Chris Davis hit a solo homer and Nick Markakis had a hit and an RBI for Baltimore.
Justin Morneau had two hits for the Twins.
The Twins got to Chen early, getting an RBI single from Josh Willingham and a double from Trevor Plouffe that made it 2-0. But he settled down after that, giving the Orioles a steady, solid performance that they've come to expect from the Taiwanese rookie.
Chen gave up a sacrifice fly to Alexi Casilla in the fourth inning to fall behind 3-1, but otherwise kept the Twins off balance with an array of breaking balls and off-speed pitches. He stranded six runners on base and kept the ball in the yard after giving up seven homers in his previous five starts, including three to the Angels on July 8.
De Vries was even better, with a soaring homer by Davis in the second inning his only real blemish.
The Orioles scratched another one across in the seventh when Davis scored on a throwing error from Plouffe at third base.
"We walked ourselves into a mess at the end," Gardenhire said. "One missed play and walks will get you every time."
De Vries said he has rarely thrown more than 100 pitches in an outing, but would be ready to try if it meant giving his exhausted bullpen a breather.
"I know it's one of those things as a starting pitcher that at times you need to do that," De Vries said. "So why not get some experience and see how that works?"
NOTES: Gardenhire was feeling better after leaving the game Wednesday night because of a stomach bug. ... Plouffe extended his hitting streak to 17 games. ... Twins RHP Matt Capps, who hit the DL on Tuesday with irritation in his rotator cuff, will likely be out for a while. "He's not even going to pick up a baseball until he's healthy," Gardenhire said. ... The Orioles head to Cleveland next, with RHP Miguel Gonzalez (1-1, 2.59) getting the start for Baltimore on Friday night against RHP Derek Lowe (8-7, 4.43). ... The Twins leave town for Kansas City, where Nick Blackburn (4-5, 8.10) will make his return to the rotation against RHP Luke Hochevar (6-8, 5.16). Blackburn was recalled from Triple-A this week after making two starts. "We need him desperately," Gardenhire said.
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