At Oriole Park at Camden Yards Monday, the birds welcomed the AL Central leading Chicago White Sox for the first of a very big series, potentially a preview of series Orioles Nation may see in October. Now that you’ve gotten to the end of that sentence, close your eyes and count to five. Now, pretend it’s March and re-read it.
The Orioles picked up another dramatic victory, this time getting two big home runs. The first was off the bat of Lew Ford, his first in major league play since 2007. The other—a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth from Nate McLouth—leapfrogged the Sox, and gave the O’s the 4-3 win. Before you re-read this paragraph, you should probably look outside your window to make sure the monkeys from the Wizard of Oz aren’t out there.
Wait. Just wait one minute. The Orioles…13 games OVER .500 at 70-57, in late AUGUST? The Orioles, with one more win before September than they had in ALL of 2011? The BALTIMORE ORIOLES…tied for the top wildcard spot in the American league, and ALONE in second place in the AL East, just 3.5 games behind the New York Yankees? On August 28? Weren’t these the guys who were supposed to fade away after dropping 6 of 7, then 5 of 6, just last month? Isn’t this the team that national sports “experts” said would, “fold in June, bless their hearts.” The Orioles?? Just who do these guys think they are?
Wei-Yin Chen took the mound for the birds, making his first start since giving up five runs on seven hits in a five-inning win against Detroit August 19. Monday, he was far better, but he hurt himself with a big error, contributing to his no-decision. Up 1-0 (courtesy of Ford’s homer) in the sixth, Chen got White Sox leadoff man Dewayne Wise to tap to first. Mark Reynolds made a terrific diving stop, but his toss to Chen was a touch low and a tad behind the lefty. It was a catchable ball, but it appeared to handcuff Chen, who dropped it for the E-1.
The very next pitch was Chen’s worst of the night. Kevin Youkilis launched a 91 MPH fastball down the middle into the left field seats, giving Chicago a 2-1 lead. Chen would finish out the inning, and did not return.
It looked like the Orioles may still reward their ace with a win in their half of the sixth, though. Wieters walked, and took third on another hit from Ford. The White Sox went to the bullpen for Jesse Crain, who walked Reynolds to load the bases with no one out. Next, McLouth worked a full count against Crain, before taking a borderline pitch for ball four. It was a terrific at-bat by McLouth, who actually ducked the final pitch, perhaps making it appear higher than it actually was. That walk forced Wieters home, and the birds still had the bases loaded (with good speed on), and no one out.
But Manny Machado tapped out on a force, third to home. Robert Andino struck out, and Markakis’ bid for a squib-job infield hit was robbed on a nice play by Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. The O’s twice loaded the bases with no outs, but could score only one time.
In the eighth with the score still tied at two, Buck Showalter went to Pedro Strop (W, 5-2). Wise led off against the O’s power arm with a single to left. Youkilis singled to right, moving Wise to third. Next up, Adam Dunn hit a slow trickling roller to Andino at second, whose only play was to first. Or, at least, it would have been, had first baseman Mark Reynolds been anywhere near where he was supposed to be, which was on the bag. Reynolds, in another of the blackout moments he’s prone to, committed to trying to field the grounder. By the time he realized it was Andino’s ball all the way, he was in no-man’s land. Wise scored, Youkilis moved to second, Dunn to first, and the White Sox led 3-2 with no outs.
Strop thew three straight, 97 MPH fastballs to Paul Konerko, who bounced into a big double play. He then struck out Alex Rios on five pitches—all sliders—and the O’s were out of the mess, albeit down one.
Reliever Brett Myers (L, 2-6) got Ford to start the bottom of the eighth, but then he walked Reynolds. Up stepped McLouth, who laid into a 91 MPH fastball up and over the plate. McLouth’s second O’s homer gave the Orioles the lead, which closer Jim Johnson, despite giving up a hit and throwing a wild pitch, was able to hold.
The O’s and White Sox battle again Tuesday night, with Chris Tillman (6-2, 3.71) going against Chris Sale (15-4, 2.65). First pitch is slated for 7:05.
- Chen: 6IP, 4H, 2R, 1ER, 1BB, 8K, 1HR.
- 3 RBIs for McLouth. 2H for Ford. Each with a home run. By the way, am I the only one who sees Brady Anderson every time McLouth puts a good swing on the ball? The stances are different, but the follow throughs are remarkably similar. And McLouth wearing Anderson’s old number 9 doesn’t hurt either.
- The Orioles struck out just five times. They walked seven times. Meanwhile, Orioles pitching struck out 12 White Sox, and walked only 1.
- Jim Johnson with save #40. What a season the Orioles closer is having.
- The Orioles have won 13 straight one-run games, tying a team record.
- 0-4 with RISP. 8 men left on base.