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MIN@BAL: Wieters jacks a two-run homer to center

BALTIMORE -- Manager Buck Showalter has admitted that at this stage, rookie pitcher Zach Britton, he of just four career starts, remains a bit of an unknown.

But any shred of doubt about the young lefty's character was removed in a brief between-innings exchange in the tunnel of the home dugout Wednesday night, where Showalter found Britton -- one of several Orioles dealing with an upper respiratory illness, bent over with his hands on his knees, wheezing and hacking. The 23-year-old Britton, who has been under the weather for the last few days, assured his manager that he was fine.

And while his line -- six innings of three-run baseball -- wasn't exceptional, the outcome -- a 5-4 Orioles win -- was enough to leave Showalter impressed and a hoarse Britton with his third win in four tries. The gutsy start, which improved the Orioles to 8-9 on the season, wasn't lost on the other side of Camden Yards, where Twins manager Ron Gardenhire raved about his club's first look at Britton.

"He's a nice-looking young pitcher," said Gardenhire, who watched Britton scatter five hits and three walks, avoiding the big inning and keeping a depleted Twins team from generating any momentum.

"He's got a nice little sinker off his fastball that dies pretty hard. ... He moves the ball in and out. Looks like he handled himself real well out there."

Regardless of what was going on when he wasn't on the hill -- Britton said he was coughing up "I don't even know what in the dugout" -- he was able to give the Orioles a quality start and go six innings for the third time in his three weeks in a big-league uniform.

"He came out and he didn't show the best stuff that he's had, and he really battled," closer Kevin Gregg said. "And [Britton] showed his ability to pitch and keep guys off-balance."

Gregg had a big hand in Wednesday's win as well, picking up his second save in three opportunities with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. The Orioles newest late-inning arm, Gregg allowed two runs in Monday's loss and blew his first save of the season Thursday in New York. Despite his struggles, Gregg downplayed the significance of getting back out on the mound and getting a vote of confidence from Showalter.

"We're in the long haul here," Gregg said. "There's 162 games and a couple bad ones isn't going to make a difference."

It is the same mindset employed by the rest of the Orioles, who snapped an eight-game skid with Tuesday's win and are starting to show signs of coming out of an early-season offensive funk.

Backed by key hits from red-hot catcher Matt Wieters and centerfielder Adam Jones, the Orioles put up a four-run second inning that helped set the tone and take the pressure off Britton. Wieters, who is 6-for-6 with 10 RBI with runners in scoring position, drove in Jones with a two-run homer off Twins starter Nick Blackburn. The four-run frame got started with Vladimir Guerrero legging out an infield hit and Luke Scott following with a base hit to centerfield. The pair advanced on Blackburn's wild pitch with Jones at the plate.

Jones -- who was hailed for his effort pregame by manager Buck Showalter -- worked a 2-2 count before driving Blackburn's pitch to right field for a two-RBI double. The extra-base hit, which gave the Orioles the lead, extended Jones' hitting streak to six games.

"He was just trying to do his job, getting the guy over and get a guy in from third," Wieters said of Jones' key at-bat. "That's the big thing that we have to do, just pass it along to the next guy. If you just keep passing it along to the next guy, then you're going to score a lot of runs."

Guerrero added a key run in the third, blasting a two-out solo homer -- his second in as many nights -- that landed in the left field seats. It was the final run allowed by Blackburn, who went seven innings and allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk. The Twins right-hander outlasted Britton on the mound, but was tagged with the loss, dropping the Twins to 6-12.

"It could have been better," Britton said of his outing, which marked the third time he has issued three free passes. "I wasn't happy with the walks, especially with the 5-1 lead, and you put guys on base and it ends up being a close game like that, so I wasn't happy with the wildness."

Besides a solo homer, the Twins only offense of the evening came courtesy of Brittons' walks. He put two men on board in the sixth, which allowed Danny Valencia to pick up two RBI on a base hit to center field. Britton exited the 88-pitch outing in favor of reliever Jim Johnson, who needed just eight pitches to get through a perfect seventh. Reliever Koji Uehara allowed a run in the eighth.

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