BALTIMORE -- Baltimore manager Buck Showalter is proud of the way his team put together effective at-bats, particularly in the Orioles' latest series against the Minnesota Twins.
Baltimore has shown all season it has power up and down the lineup, leading the majors with 176 home runs. So far, Minnesota's pitchers have not been able to make the necessary adjustments and its offense simply has not been able to keep pace.
J.J. Hardy hit his fourth career grand slam, Nelson Cruz connected for his league-leading 35th home run and the Orioles beat the Twins 12-8 on Sunday.
Baltimore pounded 18 hits and increased its lead over the New York Yankees to nine games in the American League East. The Twins lost 11 of their past 15 contests and will try to avoid their first-ever, four-game sweep in Baltimore on Monday.
"It's fun when everybody's contributing and helping the team," Hardy said.
Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph had a career-high four hits while second baseman Ryan Flaherty got his sixth homer. Right fielder Nick Markakis and left fielder David Lough had three hits apiece for the Orioles (79-56).
"I think this team does a really good job of controlling what's in the clubhouse, showing up every day and expecting to win," Flaherty said. "And that's kind of the attitude of the team. If you are not in there every day, you got to try to make the most of your opportunity and find a way to help the team in some way. Whether it's with the glove, bat, something. Do something to help the team win that day."
Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (14-4) allowed four runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings to get the win. Zach Britton got his 31st save.
Minnesota right-hander Ricky Nolasco (5-10) had a shaky start, hitting both center fielder Adam Jones and first baseman Chris Davis in the first inning, and suffered his fourth loss in five starts. He allowed eight runs on 12 hits with two strikeouts and two walks over five-plus innings.
"The key I was not able to put anybody away," Nolasco said. "I got a head of a ton of guys. But I just kind let them back into the count. If I put away four or five hitters, I think it's a different outcome."
Jones has been hit in every game of the series and 12 times this season -- second most in the AL behind Mariners catcher Mike Zunino (14).
Third baseman Tyler Plouffe hit his 12th home run and second of the series for the Twins (59-77). Twins rookie center fielder Carlos Santana got his seventh homer. Second baseman Brian Dozier and right fielder Chris Parmelee each had three hits.
"We are not a team that is just going to roll over," Plouffe said. "We have a good offense that is going to keep fighting. We got ourselves into a hole and we fought back as a team."
Cruz sparked the Orioles to a 4-0 lead when he led off the third with a long home run to left. Davis followed with a double, Hardy walked and, two batters later, Flaherty connected off Nolasco for a three-run shot over the right-field scoreboard.
"There were seven or eight baseunners we didn't earn, whether it's a hit by pitch or a walk," Showalter said. "I thinik we've been very selective. We've strung together a lot of good at-bats. Today we needed all of them."
The Orioles improved to 67-28 when they homer.
Plouffe pulled the Twin back to 4-2 in the fourth with a two-run homer to right-center.
The Orioles then pulled away in the sixth with seven runs. Jones hit a two-run double with the bases loaded that ended Nolasco's day. Twins right-hander Anthony Swarzak intentionally walked Davis, who is batting just .190, in the sixth to load the bases for Hardy, who homered to left and gave the Orioles a 10-2 lead. Joseph later hit an RBI single.
Left fielder Jordan Schafer had an RBI single and Santana homered off Brad Bach in the seventh to pull the Twins to within 11-5. Orioles third baseman Jimmy Paredes had an RBI single in the seventh to push the lead back to seven.
Baltimore right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez walked in the Twins' sixth run in the ninth and left to a chorus of boos. Tommy Hunter allowed two more runs. It was about the only thing that went wrong for Baltimore on the day.
"We stayed after the game," Twins manager Ron Gardenhre said. "We put some men in scoring position and score plenty of runs. Pitching-wise, we just didn't stop them."
NOTES: Baltimore optioned C Steve Clevenger to short-season Class A Aberdeen on Sunday. ... OF Alejandro De Aza, acquired from the White Sox for minor leaguers, reported to Baltimore on Sunday. To make room, LHP T.J. McFarland was optioned to Aberdeen. ... INF Kelly Johnson, who was traded from the Red Sox, is expected to join Baltimore on Monday. ... Minnesota officially promoted LHP Aaron Thompson from Triple-A Rochester.