Simon, Orioles rout Twins, 8-1

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Forget about a better farm system, more quality free agents and a fundamentally sound cadre of players -- maybe all the Orioles need to be competitive is to move Baltimore a little more to the west.

Not close to Indianapolis, of course, but perhaps into Ohio or Michigan -- just something to get the American League East doormat Orioles into the AL Central.

It also wouldn't hurt if Alfredo Simon continues to pitch as he did Tuesday night in the Orioles' 8-1 thrashing of the Minnesota Twins. Simon set career highs in pitches (114), innings (eight) and strikeouts (eight).

Asked whether he considered Tuesday's the best start of his career, Simon said: "Yes, I just think when I went into the game, throw the first pitch for a strike and throw a lot of two-seamers and try to throw more inside to the hitters, and it worked really well. And my curveball and my splitter worked really good today."

Thanks in part to Simon's gem, the Orioles (49-77) won their second consecutive game for just the second time since July 16-17 -- which incidentally also came against an AL Central team, the Cleveland Indians.

Consider this: Since June 27, the Orioles are 14-37. They are 7-9 against AL Central teams and 7-28 against everyone else.

Overall, they are 18-18 against the Central, with two more to play in Minnesota this week and a four-game set in Detroit in September. It's just about the only situational statistic in which the Orioles are at .500 or better.

Maybe they can switch places with the Twins, the defending Central champs, who are an abysmal 10-26 against AL East teams in 2011.

The Orioles' dominance Tuesday night against the Twins (55-73) occurred on the mound and at the plate. The offense jumped on Twins starter Brian Duensing (8-13) for seven runs in two-plus innings.

After a perfect first, Duensing surrendered four runs on the second -- with the big blow coming on Nolan Reimold's eighth homer of the season, a three-run shot that gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead. The Orioles had six hits in the second, tying the club's season high for an inning, which was set May 25 in the fourth inning against the Kansas City Royals.

They added three more hits and three more runs in the third, when Duensing was chased without retiring any of the four batters he faced. Mark Reynolds had a two-run triple, and Robert Andino drove in Reynolds with a single.

Duensing was charged with nine hits and seven runs in what tied for his shortest outing of the season.

The Orioles scored again in the fifth when Reynolds singled home Vladimir Guerrero, who had three of the club's 13 hits. That run was charged to reliever Lester Oliveros, who was making his Twins debut.

"We are not going to throw in the towel," Reimold said. "We are going to keep battling, keep trying to get some wins, keep trying to play good baseball. The last two days have been good days for us. Hopefully, we can continue to do that."

Perhaps the only dark mark on the bright night for the Orioles was the departure of Adam Jones in the second with an undisclosed illness. Manager Buck Showalter said after the game that Jones was feeling very weak and was taken to the hospital for tests. Radio station 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reported that Jones was suffering from mild chest pains and shortness of breath and that a 911 call, described as precautionary, was placed from the Orioles' dugout.

The offensive barrage, however, was more than enough for Simon (4-6), who won for the first time since Aug. 2. Besides a solo homer by Danny Valencia in the third, Simon was nearly perfect.

He allowed just three hits and a walk while retiring 17 of his final 18 batters. At one point, he struck out four of six in his best statistical outing in a season that began two months late because of Simon's alleged involvement in the fatal shooting of his cousin in his native Dominican Republic (he has not been charged in the crime but was imprisoned for roughly two months).

"He pitched a great game," Reimold said. "It is huge. It's easy to play defensively behind a guy that throws a game like that. He didn't need too many runs tonight, but we were able to score some for him."

An Orioles starter hadn't lasted eight innings since Jeremy Guthrie did it in a complete-game loss at Seattle on May 31.

"The key is can he do it again?" Showalter said of Simon. "We all live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. But it is a good start, and he has had some good starts and some where he has struggled. But it is all dictated by the command of his fastball."

Asked whether Tuesday's outcome was a result of Simon being that good or the Twins' offense being that bad, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire became irritated.

"The guy was awesome," Gardenhire said. "He was Cy Young tonight. He ate us up, you watched it. Was he that good? Or were we that bad? I don't have those answers. I wasn't swinging the bat. He looked pretty good to me."

Willie Eyre pitched a scoreless ninth Tuesday to secure the victory, though Simon would have liked to finish the game.

"He wanted to try and finish it there, too," Showalter said. "I thought it was a tough decision to send him out there for the eighth, but he was the difference in the game tonight. I was proud of him."

It was just the 15th time this season the Orioles allowed one run or no runs, and the first time they did it in consecutive games since their initial four victories of the season, in which they allowed one run in each contest.

It was a tremendous departure from the five-game losing streak they carried into Minnesota. During that skid in Oakland and Los Angeles, the Orioles allowed a total of 38 runs. But Simon was too strong, and now the Orioles have a chance to win a road series for the first time since May 13-15 if they can capture one of their two remaining games at Target Field.

That would give them even more reason to petition the state Assembly for Baltimore's move to the Midwest.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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