CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox have to be wondering what hit them. They were one of the hottest teams in baseball a couple of days ago, but their weekend series against the sixth-place Baltimore Orioles has not gone according to plan.
Now, it is the Orioles who are on a roll, albeit a modest one, after last night's 6-3 victory at sold-out Comiskey Park.
The White Sox, who came into the series with an eight-game winning streak, slipped to the brink of a three-game sweep after pitching ace Jack McDowell gave up six runs and 10 hits in two-plus innings.
Baltimore right-hander Bob Milacki, meanwhile, bounced back from a rough night in Seattle to pitch seven solid innings and record his seventh victory, as the Orioles won for the third time in a row.
Milacki gave up seven hits before turning the game over to left-hander Mike Flanagan with a runner on and none out in the eighth inning. Flanagan allowed the inherited runner to score, but turned in his sixth consecutive scoreless appearance before Gregg Olson came on to pitch the ninth and record his 24th save.
The offensive support was spread throughout the batting order, but Joe Orsulak led the way with three hits and Cal Ripken contributed a pair of RBI doubles in a 13-hit Orioles attack.
"We've been swinging the bat well the last few games," said Milacki, who became the Orioles' winningest pitcher at 7-5. "Dave Johnson pitched well on Wednesday. Ben [McDonald] was effectively wild last night. We scored six runs early tonight, and all I had to do was go out there and throw strikes."
McDowell came into the game with some impressive numbers, ranking among the league leaders in virtually every category relevant to a starting pitcher. He was 8-2 in his previous 11 starts (2.27 ERA) and had given up three runs or fewer in 10 of them.
It had been more than two months since he had given up more than four runs in a game, but he gave up that many in the first inning, as the Orioles batted around to give Milacki a significant margin for error.
Six of the first seven Orioles batters hit safely against McDowell, who equaled his season high for hits allowed before departing with two runners on and none out in the third.
Mike Devereaux led off the game with a double and completed the circuit on a single by Orsulak and a double by Ripken. The Orioles would reel off six doubles in the first two innings -- two of them by Ripken, who had slipped into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for the league's total-base lead the night before.
McDowell struck out Sam Horn after Ripken drove in the first run of the game, but each of the next three batters delivered a run-scoring hit, the final run of the inning crossing the plate when fill-in third baseman Tim Hulett doubled off the wall in left.
The second inning featured consecutive doubles by Orsulak, Ripken and Horn for two more runs. McDowell left the game after allowing a leadoff single to Hulett and a walk to Chris Hoiles in the third inning.
"It was just a weird game," McDowell said. "Every ball seemed to fall as far away from the fielder as possible. Every ground ball seemed to find a hole. It pretty much happens to everybody at some point."
The Orioles had come into the game with just one hit in 24 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but they went 6-for-11 in those situations in the first two innings.
McDowell had dominated the Orioles in two previous appearances against them this year. He pitched a four-hitter on Opening Day at Memorial Stadium and gave up three runs over eight innings in a victory two weeks later.
Milacki has not had much luck against the White Sox. It was his first appearance against Chicago this year, but he was 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in five starts the previous two seasons.
"I was just getting ahead of hitters tonight," Milacki said. "When you have a lead, you can go right after them. I was throwing all my pitches for strikes. That helps, too."
He was never in serious trouble, but the White Sox scored a run in the third after Ozzie Guillen opened the inning with a single and went to second on a balk. Milacki struck out the next two batters, but Frank Thomas drove home the run with a single to left.
Thomas, who has been one of the most productive hitters in baseball since he made his major-league debut a year ago this week, also accounted for the second and third White Sox runs with a towering home run in the sixth, his 22nd of the season, and a run-scoring ground out in the eighth.
The White Sox didn't do much more. They had come into the weekend series averaging nine runs per game during an eight-game winning streak before falling victim to a five-pitcher shutout on Friday night. Milacki simply picked up on the theme.
The Orioles offensive onslaught stalled as soon as the White Sox bullpen took over. Right-hander Donn Pall came on to pitch three innings of one-hit relief, registering a career-high five strikeouts in the process.