CHICAGO -- The Orioles couldn't believe their good fortune when they won two games in a row they should have lost, but they were reminded in excruciating detail last night what it feels like to be on the other side of an unlikely comeback.
They had a five-run lead in the eighth inning and their fifth straight victory all but wrapped up. Starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe was on the way
to his 11th victory of the year in his first appearance in Chicago since he left as a free agent last year. It was going to be sweet.
It looked like a done deal until the Chicago White Sox charged back with eight runs in the bottom of the eighth to deal the Orioles a 10-7 defeat before a happily disbelieving crowd of 35,366 at Comiskey Park.
The White Sox appeared to be dead. They had lost four games in a row and they were getting bounced around last night like it was going to be five straight any minute. To understand just how good things were going for the Orioles, Glenn Davis reached base in five straight plate appearances and hit his first home run in two weeks.
Sutcliffe, who had been a victim of non-support in a string of three straight losses, was working on a solid performance that would surely mesh with his club's three-homer barrage to produce a decisive victory.
That, of course, was before 10 straight White Sox batters reached base to turn the whole evening on its ear. That's right, every single member of the Chicago lineup made it to first base, and then some. Stranger still, they did it without accepting a single unintentional walk.
How strange was it? It started with an error by shortstop Cal
Ripken, who had not made an error in his previous 41 games. The White Sox followed with three straight hits to score two runs and drive Sutcliffe out of the game.
How strange was it? Left-hander Pat Clements came on to face '' one batter and hit Lance Johnson with his first pitch. Or did he? Orioles catcher Jeff Tackett argued vehemently that the ball hit Johnson's bat. The video replay seemed to agree.
Lest anyone forget, the Orioles' ninth-inning rally on Monday night started with an error by White Sox shortstop Craig Grebeck and included an argument over a pitch that was ruled to have hit Mike Devereaux. That's how strange it was.
"The good Lord has a way of evening things out," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates, who obviously was taking the loss philosophically.
"Nobody that ever played the game has caught every ball hit to him and no one who ever umpired got every call right. That's just part of the game."
The game turned on one big swing by the old warhorse -- catcher Carlton Fisk -- who lined a bases-loaded double that landed right on the left-field chalk line to tie a game that was more lost than anything the Orioles stole the previous two nights.
Reliever Todd Frohwirth, who had pitched so well in each of those games, surrendered the double to Fisk and gave up a two-run single to Steve Sax and a run-scoring double to Frank Thomas to suffer his first loss of the season.
"My sinker just wasn't sinking at all," said Frohwirth. "I felt good, but I threw four or five of them right down the middle. I don't know why that happened. It has happened only a couple of times all year."
Frohwirth got the decision in Sunday night's comeback victory over the Texas Rangers and he threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings in Monday night's comeback against the White Sox. But he refused to accept the notion that last night's defeat was balanced out by the two previous victories.
"I don't think it balances out," he said. "When you're a contender, you have to win some games you were supposed to lose and you should always win the games you're supposed to win. To me, it makes it worse. After those games we came back, you want to keep that going."
Sutcliffe remained at 10-9, winless since the Orioles hammered the Milwaukee Brewers, 12-3, on June 30. He had gotten no more than two runs in any of the three losses since, so he had to be feeling pretty good when Leo Gomez gave the Orioles a five-run lead with a three-run homer in the third inning.
The White Sox came back to get a couple of runs, but Sutcliffe had to feel pretty comfortable when he got back-to-back home runs from Davis and Randy Milligan to push the lead back to five in the seventh inning.
Nobody was feeling very good afterward, except in the White Sox clubhouse, where everyone was breathing easier for the end of their four-game losing streak.
"This kind of win against a team like this -- scoring eight runs in an inning -- could hopefully build confidence," White Sox manager Gene Lamont said. "The last couple of days, we didn't get the extra-base hit and you need those to win games."
Right-hander Terry Leach earned the victory for two scoreless innings of relief after starter Kirk McCaskill struggled badly and middle reliever Wilson Alvarez gave up the two home runs in the seventh.