Orioles' season facing hard fall White Sox win, 12-5, make wild-card chase of Boston all but moot

It's 5th loss in 6 games

With 30 games to go, deficit returns to 10

August 27, 1998|By Joe Strauss JTC | Joe Strauss JTC,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- If a team falls and nobody cares, does anybody hear it?

Giving one of their most apathetic performances of the season, the Orioles confirmed the earlier suspicion that this season is best discussed in the past tense. They lost, 12-5, to the Chicago White Sox, who celebrated their second consecutive win and continued dominance over the Orioles.

More than a loss, the game further punctured the Orioles' evaporating playoff fantasies while infuriating manager Ray Miller.

The White Sox not only outhit the Orioles, 15-6, but they also appeared to render them defenseless with nine straight runs. The backsliding Orioles have lost five of their past six games, including three in a row.

Piling on further, the Boston Red Sox again won, dropping the Orioles 10 games back in the so-called American League wild-card race. The Orioles are 11 games down in the loss column with 30 remaining.

Einstein might calculate a permutation that would allow Miller's team into the postseason, but the game's physics will have none of it.

The Orioles' three-game losing streak is their longest of the second half. Though they retain the game's best record (31-13) since the All-Star break, last night's performance suggested a veteran team well aware of it being marooned in third place.

"It's getting tougher. Even when we were seven games out a week ago, we knew it was going to be tough. At least then we had momentum. We were playing well, the schedule was in our favor. To let these games get away like this is devastating at this point in the season," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said.

Miller dropped his standard defense of his team's shortcomings, instead using an obscenity to describe its play.

"We didn't pitch well. We gave up nine runs with two outs. We screwed up a rundown play we work on all spring. They might be bloops and they might be flares, but there were nine runs scored with two outs and yesterday there were six. We had three hits in the first six innings," he said, and added, "This is just bad baseball and I'm not very pleased with it. I'd have a meeting about it right now, but I'm too mad, so I'll do it tomorrow."

Miller clearly detected what he construed as middling effort. He implied as much when he reminded reporters that he lobbied against taking apart a veteran clubhouse after a disastrous first half.

"It's going to depend on the guys out there. I stood up for them and kept them here. Now I expect them to play well. We'll talk about that tomorrow. You can't win every ballgame, but there's no excuse for not putting fire into it. We've been very flat the last two days -- hitting, fielding, everything," he said.

A stand-up triple for The Big Smirk, Frank Thomas?

Four hits by rookie shortstop Mike Caruso?

A horrendous three-pitch sequence: botched pickoff, wild pitch, moon shot home run?

The effort was so infuriating to starting pitcher Juan Guzman (8-13) that he stormed from the field directly into the clubhouse tunnel after a six-run second inning. Miller followed him and persuaded him to slog through five innings, allowing seven runs on nine hits.

"Everything just got out of hand," Guzman said. "Today was one of those days when you go out and everything you throw goes wrong. There's nothing you can do. Everything was going good for them."

Guzman summed his frustration. "I feel the only way I could get out of it was striking out everybody."

The rest of the American League apparently knows something the Orioles don't -- the White Sox are a terrible team.

Once again Second City's second team throttled a club demonstrably better at virtually every position and especially within the starting rotation. The 58-73 White Sox are 5-2 against the Orioles this year, having consistently pounded their pitching, contained their lineup and benefited from noncommittal defensive play.

Before the game Miller bemoaned his team's .211 average against a threadbare pitching staff chopped at a .280 clip by the rest of the league. He received further aggravation when the Orioled didn't start hitting until they trailed 9-1 in the seventh inning. White Sox starter James Baldwin (8-5) benefited and improved to 6-2 since June 26. The White Sox have outscored the Orioles 53-32 this season.

"I hate to say there's a letdown, but we're a ways behind the Red Sox. They're continuing to play well. At the same time, we've got to play the season out. We've got over a month left in the season. We can't play like we did tonight," said catcher Lenny Webster, who hit home runs as did Cal Ripken and Palmeiro.

Asked if a two-month pursuit of the Red Sox might finally have caused his discouraged team to let down, Miller said, "I don't know what it is. If it is, it's my fault. There shouldn't be a letdown. I looked up there and saw 4-4 in the sixth with Boston. That should be enough. We pitched poorly. We played less than heads-up defense. I don't understand it."

The most embarrassing moment came during the White Sox' six-run second inning.

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