CHICAGO -- The Orioles tried to slip out of Comiskey Park without waking anyone up yesterday, but it was not that simple. The final game of the three-game series turned into a slugging match, and the Chicago White Sox were still standing at the end.
It was an afternoon of extremes. The Orioles set a season high with 17 hits, but the White Sox came from behind twice to avert a weekend sweep with a 14-10 victory.
So, nobody's perfect. It would have been nice to go home 5-0 on the two-city road trip, but the Orioles will have to settle for the best record in the major leagues. They returned to Baltimore on top of the American League East and open a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics tonight at Camden Yards.
"You'll take four of five," manager Johnny Oates said. "I would have liked 5-0, but I'll take 4-1."
He might not have been so unselfish if someone had told him before the game that the club would score 10 runs on 17 hits on an afternoon when undefeated right-hander Ben McDonald was starting, but that's the kind of day it was.
McDonald isn't undefeated anymore. He pitched five innings and gave up seven runs on eight hits -- three of them home runs -- on the way to his first defeat since Aug. 28 of last year.
The ball was flying out of Comiskey Park right from the start. McDonald gave up home runs to Tim Raines and Robin Ventura in the first inning, then fell victim to a two-run shot by Frank Thomas in the fifth that wouldn't have left the field if center fielder Mike Devereaux had not helped it along.
"We had a chance to make one tough play and turn the game around and we didn't make it," Oates said.
Yes, it was that kind of day. McDonald tried to pitch around Thomas with a runner on base and two outs, but the big first baseman jumped on a high curveball and hit a line drive to deep center. The ball glanced off Devereaux's glove and skipped over the fence to give the White Sox the lead.
It was Thomas' second home run of the series and his ninth against the Orioles since the start of the 1991 season. Oates was saying before Friday's series opener that he hoped to figure out a way to contain Thomas, who had five hits in 11 at-bats in the series. Oates said he would be satisfied with just keeping the ball in the ballpark, but even that was not good enough yesterday.
That was the turning point, but the biggest offensive performances came from Raines and second baseman Steve Sax. Raines had four hits and a walk in five plate appearances and scored four times. Sax had two triples -- the second one a three-run game-breaker in the sixth -- and went on to tie a career high with five RBI.
McDonald didn't know what hit him. He gave up the homer to Raines on his second pitch of the game. Ventura followed with his second of the year an out later. The White Sox added two more runs in the third and three in the fifth before Oates went to his bullpen.
"I felt good," said McDonald, whose ERA jumped from 2.44 to 3.40 in the space of five innings. "I had a pretty good fastball and breaking ball, and I threw a lot of changeups. I could have gotten ahead on the count a little more often, but they just hit the ball today. They hit some good pitches. It just seemed like everything they hit was either in the hole or over the fence."
That about summed it up. Oates also said he could see nothing wrong with the way McDonald was throwing the ball, except what happened after he let go of it.
"I don't have the answer," Oates said. "I thought he had pretty good stuff today. Maybe it's just one of those days when you have to give them credit."
The Orioles fell behind 4-1 in the third inning, but they looked like they might take control of the game when Glenn Davis delivered a bases-loaded triple during a four-run fifth inning that put them in the lead.
Catcher Chris Hoiles had cut the the White Sox lead to two with his ninth home run of the season in the fourth, and the Orioles sent 10 men to the plate in the fifth. But the White Sox regained the lead on Thomas' home run and put together a five-run rally in the sixth that represented the biggest inning the Orioles have absorbed all year.
Oates tried to put a positive face on the afternoon, and why not? The Orioles completed a successful road trip and did not lay down after the White Sox broke open the game.
"The guys battled back and we were still whacking the ball against their ace [Bobby Thigpen] in the ninth inning," he said. "The guys were still in the game. They could have mailed it in, but they didn't. We'll be back out there tomorrow night."
McDonald fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, but he did not seem particularly discouraged, either.
"It was a crazy game all the way around," he said. "It was one of those games when no matter what you do, you're never out of the ballgame."
The only ones who were out of the game early were McDonald and White Sox starter Greg Hibbard, who combined to give up 13 runs in the first five innings. Right-hander Storm Davis took over for McDonald and was shelled for five runs in a third of an inning. Alan Mills didn't distinguish himself either, though he jTC survived the final 2 2/3 innings and gave up only one earned run.
The victory went to White Sox long man Donn Pall, who worked 3 1/3 innings in relief of Hibbard and gave up two runs on six hits. Thigpen finished -- presumably to get in some work -- but he needed a diving play by Joey Cora at second base to keep the ninth inning from getting interesting.