BALTIMORE -- In the uncharacteristically sweltering heat of the first day in September, every at-bat becomes a grind. One mistake can grow out of control and sink an inning or even a game.
Jimmy Paredes, an outfielder who's filling at third base for the Orioles, made a pair of mistakes and both times Joe Mauer made Kevin Gausman and the O's pay. The first wasn't classified an error when a ball bounced between his legs with one out in the sixth. The next one was, a grounder that sped by him with a runner on in the eighth.
"We had a couple plays we didn't make," manager Buck Showalter said.
A poor read by Delmon Young in left field following the first mistake let Mauer reach third for a triple, driving in a pair of runs, and Mauer eventually scored on a sacrifice fly. Mauer followed Paredes' error in the eighth with two more RBIs. Two three-run innings sunk the Orioles and gave the Twins a 6-4 win on Monday to avoid a sweep in front of 33,156.
Ultimately, that defense mired the longest start of Gausman's (7-7) career. The rookie got an out in the eighth inning for the first time and struck out seven batters. If he just had one more his day would have been different.
Gausman went to a full count against Minnesota outfielder Jordan Schafer to start the eighth inning and fired a fastball over the plate. Third-base umpire Lance Barksdale thought Schafer checked his swing. Home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley thought the pitch was inside. Schafer walked to first and later scored on Mauer's two-run single.
"I thought it was a strike," Gausman said. "I thought maybe he went around, but I thought it should've been called a strike. But that's baseball."
Mauer's single broke a 3-3 tie and Kennys Vargas' single to follow gave the Twins their final run. Nelson Cruz led off the bottom of the ninth with his Major League-leading 36th home run before Glen Perkins picked up his 33rd save.
Cruz's homer off Perkins provided Baltimore's only bit of self-constructed offense. Phil Hughes, who entered the day with a 5.66 ERA at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, didn't allow an earned run in eight innings.
Hughes, who joined Minnesota this offseason, has allowed more home runs to the O's than any other team.
"I think it's just a change of scenery for him," Chris Davis said. "Sometimes you get labeled in an organization and they project you to be something you're not. I think it's been good for him to get out of there. He's a good pitcher. I've always thought he was good."
A home run by catcher Nick Hundley in the seventh gave Baltimore its first three runs off Hughes after an error by Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe extended the inning.
Gausman's luck, though, was worse, even if the numbers don't support it. He could have made it through the sixth without allowing a run and instead ended up with three earned. The eighth could've been the same had Paredes turned two on the ball that ended up an error. Even the runs that did score came when relief pitcher Andrew Miller had already replaced Gausman.
"I thought he'd try to get ahead early and then go with the slider, so I looked for a heater up and got one," Mauer said of the at-bat against Miller, which lasted one pitch. "It was good not to miss."
That hit was the difference between a 9 1/2-game lead on New York in the American League East and the 8 1/2-game edge the O's now hold instead.
Still, the Orioles came within one win of sweeping Minnesota for the first time ever in Baltimore and take 3-of-4 in consecutive series to start an 11-game homestand to put their magic number at 19.
"I'm not going to sit here and say we'd have taken it before it started, but you guys can do that part of it," Showalter said. "We go out there every day trying to win every game. You'd like to finish it off, but the Twins are a very proud organization. You can tell they're an up and coming offensive team."
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.