MINNEAPOLIS -- For all the talk about improved confidence, and all the success his new delivery showed in Seattle, when Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman slinked off the mound on Monday night after recording just two outs, it was an all-too-familiar feeling.
The lack of consistency, that fleeting glimpse of the 24-year-old's talent and ability, continued to prove maddening with another abbreviated outing following a promising start.
This time, Tillman -- who wasn't helped by a costly Mark Reynolds' error -- lasted just 49 pitches, leaving his team in a seven-run hole en route to a 19-7 series-opening loss at Target Field.
The defeat is the backsliding Orioles' 16th in their last 23 games -- tying their biggest margin of defeat in a single contest this season -- and leaves Tillman still unable to prove that this time, it's different.
"He had a real good outing and he struggled tonight; he's done that before," manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman, who has posted back-to-back-quality outings just once in 38 Major League starts, dating back in 2009. "That's why when guys always try to put everything in a little tight box like where he's putting his foot or where he's taking his hands out. This is a lot more than just mechanical things."
Following 8 1/3 innings in Seattle in which he did not allow an earned run, Tillman turned in a career-low 2/3 of an inning and allowed eight baserunners over that stretch, unable to shut the door after Reynolds' error gave the Twins a pair of two-out runs.
"[It's] very frustrating," Tillman, who downplayed any lingering effects of Thursday's back spasms. "I know what I'm capable of and I've been doing it for a while now [with Triple-A Norfolk]. It's disappointing not being able to make that adjustment and getting back down in the zone."
With no feel for his offspeed pitches, the Twins sat and waited for Tillman's fastball. After allowing a quick run to Minnesota on Justin Morneau's two-out double, he walked Trevor Plouffe to load the bases. It could have all ended there, as Ryan Doumit bounced a routine grounder to Reynolds at first. Instead, the ball scooted by Reynolds to give the Twins a 3-0 lead and Tillman time to completely unravel.
"Looking back on it, I just should have ran and covered first because [Steve] Tolleson was playing short right field right there and it would have been a really easy play for him," said Reynolds, who turned in his first four-RBI game this season at the plate. "It's one of those reaction plays where I think my third base instincts kicked in and just tried to get everything I could get.
"Obviously it was a tone-setter and they got another big hit with the bases-clearing double that made it 7-0. It's tough to come back from."
Before Denard Span's double ended his night, Tillman allowed another single and a walk to No. 9 batter Jamey Carroll. The outing, a new career-low for Tillman, marked the first time an Oriole starter has failed to go at least one inning since Zach Britton recorded one out in New York on July 30 last season.
"There were too many pitches I needed to make," Tillman said following the Reyonlds error. "It's disappointing. I'm going to forget about it. I know what I need to do to get better. And I didn't do it tonight. It just comes down to being consistent."
Added catcher Matt Wieters: "It just didn't go his way today. I think that's the way he has got to look at it and just be ready to go out there the next time and put this one behind him."
Tillman's short start gave an already-overworked Orioles bullpen 22 outs to pick up. The relief corps, which has been the team's strength, surrendered 12 runs following Tillman. Miguel Socolovich was charged with three runs over 2 1/3 innings, Kevin Gregg gave up a run in the fourth and Darren O'Day was tagged with a trio of runs in the sixth.
Closer Jim Johnson allowed five runs over two outs in the bottom of the eighth, with Troy Patton and Matt Lindstrom the only relievers to not give up a run. Since ending the first half of the season with an American League-leading 2.75 ERA, the Orioles bullpen has pitched to a 7.61 ERA in four games, forced to pick up 23 2/3 innings over that stretch.
The Twins, who hadn't scored more than five runs since July 3, scored their most runs ever at Target Field and picked up their second win in nine games, while the O's dropped to 46-43, the first time they have been fewer than four games over .500 since April 24.
"It was good to get a good lead on a good hitting team," said Twins right fielder Ben Revere, who robbed Adam Jones of a potential run-scoring hit in the first inning. "It was good for us to get that big lead ahead and knock them down early."
The Orioles offense was led by Reynolds, who drove in a run in the third and delivered a three-run homer in the fifth. Endy Chavez also went deep for a two-run homer in the ninth. But it wasn't nearly enough to tip the scale back in their favor, as the Orioles -- who remain in second place in the American League East despite the loss -- need to turn things around in a hurry.
"It's one game," Wieters said. "It doesn't matter if we lose a game 3-2 or 19-7. It's one game and we got three more this series."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.