Using a combination of inside and outside baseball, the Chicago White Sox ran to six early runs against Bob Milacki en route to an 8-4 victory over the Orioles last night before 45,451 at Camden Yards.
The big blow against Milacki (5-6) was a two-run homer by Dan Pasqua in the third inning, but it was a combination of singles and stolen bases that caused most of his problems. Four of the White Sox's five stolen bases came while the right-hander was pitching and were instrumental in all of the scoring in the first three innings.
The loss, the fourth in the past five games and 13th in their past 23, dropped the Orioles four games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays, who beat the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, last night.
The White Sox came out with a running game plan against Milacki, and it dictated the nature of the game. "We have [a timing] how long he takes to get [the ball] to the plate," said Chicago manager Gene Lamont, "and he's probably one of the slowest."
Orioles manager Johnny Oates acknowledged that the motion offense distorted Milacki's performance. "Guys got on base off him, they stole, and that set the tone," said Oates. "He made some good pitches that didn't get him out of the [third] inning and probably lost his concentration. He got a pitch up to Pasqua, who got his first hit in 14 at-bats off him."
Wilson Alvarez (2-2), whose only other start against the Orioles was a no-hitter last Aug. 11, allowed six hits in 5 2/3 innings to pick up the win. The left-hander was followed by relievers Brian Drahman, Scott Radinsky and Bobby Thigpen, as the White Sox won for the 13th time in their past 17 games.
Brady Anderson's two-run double sparked a three-run flurry by the Orioles in the sixth inning, but the three relievers shut them down the rest of the way.
George Bell led a procession of four multi-hit batters for the winners, collecting three singles and driving in two runs. Pasqua, whose home run was his third of the year, Lance Johnson and Steve Sax each had two hits.
Milacki, winless in his past five outings, was making his first start in eight days. He had beaten Chicago twice previously this year and three straight times over the past two years. But he was in trouble from the outset last night, although he was not hit particularly hard.
The White Sox ran wild on the bases in the first three innings, when five of their six runners scored. Three stolen bases were directly responsible for the first two Chicago runs, and Milacki's only walk and a fourth swipe set up the next three.
Tim Raines opened the game with a single and stole second on the next pitch. After Robin Ventura and Warren Newson struck out, Bell reached out and one-handed a soft single to left to drive in the game's first run.
The Orioles tied it in their half of the first on Randy Milligan's two-out grounder in the hole to left, after a single by Cal Ripken and a walk to Glenn Davis.
The White Sox regained the lead in the second, when Johnson singled and stole two bases. Sax was a strikeout victim in between, but with the Orioles playing their infield back, Carlton Fisk got the run home with a routine grounder to Ripken at shortstop.
The Orioles had a similar opportunity in their half of the inning, but the White Sox thwarted it. Joe Orsulak led off with a double along the right-field line and went to third on Mark McLemore's sacrifice bunt.
Chicago played the infield on the edge of the grass, which prevented a run, as Jeff Tackett hit a duplicate of Fisk's grounder. After Anderson coaxed a walk, Mike Devereaux hit into a force for the final out.
The third inning was a microcosm of Milacki's season. After routinely retiring Raines and Ventura, he walked Newson, who promptly stole second.
For the second time in as many at-bats, Bell took advantage of the situation to drive in a run with another soft single. This one was a fly ball that fell in front of Devereaux in center field -- and for the third straight inning a runner who had stolen a base scored for the White Sox.
Milacki's next pitch produced another fly ball, but Pasqua hit this one just far enough to clear the right-field scoreboard, and suddenly the Orioles found themselves trailing, 5-1.
Milacki left in the fourth after giving up a pair of singles and getting two outs. Mike Flanagan's first pitch since June 28 was wild, enabling Sax to score Chicago's sixth run before Ventura grounded out.
The Orioles, meanwhile, offered only mild resistance to Alvarez before striking for three runs in the sixth inning. With two outs, McLemore singled to right and Tackett walked.
Both runners scored when Anderson lined a double over the head of Raines in left field that finished Alvarez. When Devereaux greeted Drahman with a crisp single to right-center, Anderson scored to make it 6-4, but Ripken popped up a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.