When Orioles manager Buck Showalter walked into Oriole Park at Camden Yards before Baltimore's series opener against the Twins on Friday, pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti were already breaking down the unfamiliar Minnesota hitters.
There were about six of them, the O's manager estimated, that his team had never faced before despite playing in the American League. Because of a scheduling oddity and the expansion of Interleague Play, the Orioles went nearly four months without seeing the Twins before they welcomed them to Baltimore on Monday.
The four-game series continues on Saturday when the O's send Chris Tillman to the mound against Twins starting pitcher Kyle Gibson.
"It's been a challenge," Showalter said before Friday's game. "What will be a challenge in the last game of the series is if they have eight or 10 guys show up. This time of year, advanced scouting is really a challenge when Sept. 1 rolls around."
Tillman has been fantastic recently for the O's, turning in 13 quality starts in his last 15 outings. His 1.86 ERA since the All-Star break is among the best in the Majors.
The Twins, meanwhile, are testing their youth, and that means that second-year starter Gibson will take the hill. In three of his last five outings, he's given up five earned runs. Still, a second consecutive series against a first-place team -- the Twins just finished a three-game set against the Royals -- is a good experience for a team that's hoping to build for the future.
"It's intense baseball in a pennant race," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're leading their division just like Kansas City was, so it hinges on every pitch, which is fun. The three games in Kansas City could've gone either way, so it was fun baseball. Our guys are getting some big hits. So it's a good experience for them playing pennant-race teams, and hopefully they learn from it and get better."
Twins: Schafer sticks in lineup
Since Minnesota claimed outfielder Jordan Schafer off waivers on Aug. 3, he's been a revelation for a struggling club. He added another hit on Friday, and his continued excellence is making it tough for Gardenhire to take him out of the lineup.
Schafer, who was batting .163 with the Braves, has lifted his average to .238 and has hit five doubles, one triple, stolen 10 bases and driven in nine runs in 22 games since joining the Twins.
"He's been big at the bottom because you want the lineup to roll over," Gardenhire said. "We're just letting him play. We just want to see what he can do. I think he's comfortable here. He's getting a great opportunity because he's not playing for a day and sitting for two. He's playing every day and getting consistent at-bats."
Orioles: Pearce nursing injured abdominal
Steve Pearce left in the fourth inning of the Orioles' 9-1 win against the Twins on Friday with a right abdominal injury. An MRI scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday should tell the O's more.
Pearce, who is batting .289 with a career-high 16 home runs this season, said the injury only bothers him when he swings, and he is optimistic that it won't keep him out long.
"I'm not feeling any pain or anything," Pearce said. "It's just discomfort."
• Trevor Plouffe's solo home run during the Twins' loss on Friday was the 10,000th homer in franchise history.
• Pearce's injury didn't just lay a potentially serious blow on Baltimore, but it also ended a career-long 11-game hitting streak.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.