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 | Joe Strauss,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 after beginning the homestand on a six-game losing skid.

The Orioles fell to 69-63 and have lost five of their past six, including three straight. As if to pile on, the Boston Red Sox again won, dropping the Orioles 10 games back in the theoretical AL wild-card race. They are 11 games down in the loss column with 30 games remaining. Einstein might calculate a permutation that would allow Ray Miller's team into the postseason, but the game's physics likely will have none of it.

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

The rest of the AL apparently knows something the Orioles don't -- that 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 his record to 6-2 since June 26.

Rafael Palmeiro, trapped in a debilitating offensive slide, contributed his second defensive lapse in two nights plus a seventh-inning error. Other facets pointed to a game rife with disgust.

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 whole thing became so infuriating to Orioles starter Juan Guzman (8-13) that he stormed from the field directly into the clubhouse tunnel after the second inning. Miller followed him and persuaded him to slog through five innings in which he allowed seven runs on nine hits.

Guzman's fifth outing as an Oriole was by far his worst. He was 2-0 in his previous four starts while averaging slightly more than six innings per start. Last night he struggled from the outset, surrendering as many hits in the chaotic fifth inning as he had in any of his earlier appearances with the Orioles.

Down 1-0, the White Sox scored six runs off Guzman with two outs. For the second straight game a meltdown at first base opened the spigot for a decisive breakout.

With two outs and runners at first and second, No. 9 hitter Chad Kreuter doubled between Cal Ripken and the third-base bag to score Robin Ventura to tie it at 1. Following a walk to Ray Durham that loaded the bases, Caruso slapped his second of four singles to make it a 3-1 game.

Thomas then approached. White Sox manager Jerry Manuel ordered a delayed steal with Caruso breaking late. In the ensuing rundown, when the ball came to Palmeiro, Durham broke to the plate. Attempting to throw while moving right, Palmeiro made a toss that was off line. Caruso slid beneath Lenny Webster's tag, prompting Miller to turn and heave his gum against the dugout wall.

Chaos continued. Guzman threw a wild pitch that advanced Caruso to third. Thomas completed the fiasco by crushing a 436-foot home run for a 6-1 lead.

The Orioles are literally limping into September. Brady Anderson played center field last night despite a frayed right patella tendon. Naturally, he had to limp around from first base on a first-inning double by Eric Davis.

Stationed in right field, Davis moved stiffly and threw with obvious pain. The White Sox ran freely on anything hit his way.

Davis did contribute a first-inning double that scored Anderson for the Orioles' fleeting 1-0 lead. He has hit in 36 of his past 38 games and remains enough of a threat that Miller balked at playing a fresher Rich Becker or Willie Greene against right-handed pitching.

The Orioles were rendered toothless by Baldwin, who entered with a 5.97 ERA despite a run of competence since mid-June.

As soon as they fell behind, the Orioles fell into a pattern of first-pitch outs on lethargic swings. Only one more runner reached scoring position through the sixth inning.

By the time Ripken homered off the left-field foul pole, the Orioles trailed 9-1 and were doomed to their fifth loss in six games. Webster provided a second bases-empty homer to dead center field in the inning.

The Orioles kept going after Bryan Ward replaced Baldwin to begin the eighth. Palmeiro, who had been 6-for-42, then lined a home run into the right-field bleachers. Palmeiro's 39th home run tied his career high set in 1995 and matched in 1996. By then, the game -- like this season -- had fallen out of reach.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Chicago White Sox

Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago

Time: 8: 05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson (14-9, 3.88) vs. White Sox's Jim Parque (3-5, 5.28)

AL wild-card race

........... W-L .... Pct. .. GB

Boston ... 78-52 .. .600 ... --

Texas .... 70-62 .. .530 .... 9

Orioles .. 69-63 .. .523 ... 10

Pub Date: 8/27/98

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