CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox spent the early part of last year using the Baltimore Orioles as the inspiration for an amazing turnaround. Now they are using them for batting practice.
The White Sox, who opened the season with a two-game sweep at Memorial Stadium, moved to the brink of a three-game sweep at Comiskey Park last night with a rain-soaked 10-4 victory that dropped the Orioles into the American League East cellar.
Right-hander Jack McDowell scattered eight hits over eight innings on the way to his second win over the Orioles this year. He pitched a four-hitter as the White Sox beat the Orioles, 9-1, on Opening Day.
The same White Sox offense that scored eight runs Monday night hammered Dave Johnson into submission by the fifth inning. First baseman Frank Thomas hit his second home run of the series and added a two-run single to drive in a career-high four runs. Robin Ventura and Craig Grebeck also homered in an 11-hit White Sox attack that inflated the Orioles team ERA to 4.94.
It wasn't pretty. Hasn't been for the past week. But manager Frank Robinson is not allowing himself to get overly concerned. The Orioles are 4-8, which isn't exactly the end of the world.
"You don't hang your head after 12 games," he said. "I don't want them to hang their heads. All I want them to do is go out and play hard and we'll come out of it. I just hope we don't get in too deep, so when we do come out of it we don't have to win 10 or 12 games to get back to .500."
The Orioles have lost three straight and five of their past six as they continue to search for offensive continuity and pitching stability. They also continue to search for decent weather conditions but have not found them in any of the three cities they have visited.
The game was interrupted by rain for more than two hours during the second inning, which apparently didn't sit well with Johnson. He retired the White Sox in order in the first inning but came back after the delay to give up a two-run home run in each of the next two innings.
In each case, Johnson had no one to blame but himself. He hit Carlton Fisk with a pitch to open the second before allowing a one-out drive by Thomas that left the playing field at the deepest point in the park. Then he deflected a routine ground ball away from shortstop Cal Ripken to set up another two-run blast -- this one a shot by Ventura in the third -- that also made an impressive exit in center field.
The Orioles had gotten a run back after Thomas hit his second home run in two days. Mike Devereaux reached second with a single and a stolen base and scored on a base hit by Ripken, who increased his club-leading RBI total to 14.
Joe Orsulak hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning -- his first of the year -- but the game was already out of hand. Tim Hulett hit his first home run in the ninth, but that was off reliever Ken Patterson.
Johnson has a history of giving up the long ball, though he had surrendered only one (to Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Gary Sheffield) in his first two starts of the season. He gave up a major-league-high 30 homers last year, but that didn't keep him from being the winningest pitcher on the club.
The two he gave up to the White Sox last night did keep him from competing effectively with McDowell, who didn't need all that much help to begin with. The White Sox are rolling, and he has been their most effective pitcher, with a 3-1 record and a 3.45 ERA.
Johnson is struggling. He pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings in his 1991 debut against the Texas Rangers April 12 but has given up 14 earned runs over eight innings in his past two starts to raise his earned run average to 8.79.
"Dave hasn't had his good location," Robinson said. "He isn't getting the ball where he wants to get it. When he doesn't get it where he wants to get it, he's going to have problems."
Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago
Orioles starter: Jeff Ballard (1-1, 6.00)
White Sox starter: Charlie Hough (0-0, 4.50)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)