BALTIMORE -- Ricky Nolasco is still searching for consistency this season. Nolasco was coming off his best outing of the year, as he tossed seven scoreless innings last time out against the first-place Royals.
But he couldn't build off his last start, as his season-long woes with the Twins continued with another subpar performance against the Orioles in a 12-8 loss on Sunday afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Nolasco simply couldn't follow it up against another first-place team and hasn't turned in back-to-back quality starts since mid-May. The right-hander gave up eight runs on 12 hits and two walks over five-plus innings to fall to 5-10 with a 5.96 ERA in his first season since signing a four-year, $49 million deal.
"I thought I was able to turn a corner and was starting to feel pretty decent getting ahead of guys, but the main thing is I wasn't able to put anyone away," Nolasco said. "I don't know how many times I had guys down in the count and they came back to make it even."
Nolasco was hurt by the long ball yet again, as he served up a solo shot to Nelson Cruz in the third before giving up a three-run blast to Ryan Flaherty later that inning. He's now given up 19 homers in 22 starts this season.
"If I put away four or five different hitters it's a completely different outcome, but I didn't," Nolasco said. "I let them back into the count. You can't do that against a dangerous lineup like that. I hurt myself today."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Nolasco lacked the same stuff he had last time out in Kansas City, as he's still trying to put it together after missing more than a month with a right elbow strain before returning in mid-August. He now has a 6.20 ERA in four starts since coming back from the 15-day disabled list.
"He obviously had the arm injury and is trying to find his way back," Gardenhire said. "There were times it looked like he was doing OK, but it wasn't as sharp as his last outing."
Nolasco got through the next two innings unscathed, but it unraveled for the Twins in a seven-run sixth inning for the Orioles after he loaded the bases with no outs. Nolasco got Adam Jones down 0-2, but hung a curveball for a two-run double down the left-field line.
Right-hander Anthony Swarzak came in and didn't fare any better, as he surrendered a grand slam to former Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy to put the game away. Swarzak also gave up an RBI single to Caleb Joseph later that inning to cap the scoring for the Orioles that frame.
"Swarzy came in and got one big out and then threw one down the middle for a grand slam," Gardenhire said. "So they put up some big innings. When you give up a four-runner and a seven-runner it's not a good way to go about your business."
It was more than enough offense for Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who gave up four runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings to get his 14th win.
The Twins didn't get on the board until the fourth on a two-run shot from Trevor Plouffe for his 12th homer of the year. Minnesota rallied for three runs in the seventh with Jordan Schafer delivering a two-out RBI single to knock Chen from the game. Danny Santana followed with a two-run blast off reliever Brad Brach.
"I was trying to get [Chen] through the seventh and couldn't quite get through there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Was really trying to stay away from some guys in the bullpen, but weren't able to get through it. And that's a tribute to them as much as anything else."
Minnesota kept battling in the ninth, scoring three times against reliever Ubaldo Jimenez after he loaded the bases with no outs. Plouffe drew a bases-loaded walk before Chris Parmelee connected on a two-run single to right field off reliever Tommy Hunter, with runs getting charged to Jimenez. But Orioles closer Zach Britton came in and closed the door with a game-ending double play to get his 31st save and hand the Twins their third straight loss.
"We have an offense that keeps fighting," Plouffe said. "We were able to make it interesting at the end, but it wasn't enough."