CHICAGO -- Revisiting the scene of last season's final swoon, the Orioles suffered terrifying flashbacks last night against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. This time there were no rancorous clubhouse meetings between the manager and a temperamental second baseman, only the kind of baseball the Orioles hoped to have outgrown.
A difficult start by Juan Guzman, five errors from a suddenly jittery defense and another disconcerting appearance by reliever Jesse Orosco contributed to a 9-3 loss before 16,496. The loss dropped the Orioles to 28-37 and ended an uplifting seven-game winning streak.
Home runs by Magglio Ordonez, Chris Singleton and Paul Konerko accounted for seven White Sox runs. Poor defense provided them the other two. The Orioles never solved White Sox starter Mike Sirotka (6-6) and played behind throughout despite 12 hits, four by shortstop Mike Bordick.
Guzman lost for the first time since May 10. The Orioles lost for the first time since suffering a doubleheader sweep at Florida June 8. Right fielder Albert Belle's hostile homecoming to the South Side featured two singles but was lowlighted by a groundout to end a budding seventh-inning rally and a bases-loaded foul out to end the game.
The Orioles reached Sirotka for 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings but lost several outs on shots to Comiskey's deepest confines. The Orioles' top five hitters were a combined 11-for-23.
"I thought we had a real good approach off Sirotka," said Orioles manager Ray Miller. "We had 10 hits off him. We hit a lot of line drives right at people with men on base. But there were errors and we gave up too many hits."
The White Sox are now 10-4 this month. Despite the loss of Belle, last year's offensive centerpiece, the White Sox are seven wins ahead of last season's pace. "Team baseball is how we justify where we are," said manager Jerry Manuel. "Coming into the season it's what we stressed, and it's good to see it in our play."
The Orioles' longest winning streak of the season saw them raise their team average from .274 to .284 while lowering their ERA from 5.80 to 5.33.
During the dominant stretch they batted .365 with 52 runs and 13 home runs while their previously overmatched pitching staff compiled a 1.69 ERA while refusing to allow a home run.
Guzman (3-5) was attempting to extend a streak of six starts without a loss, including his last appearance, a 5-0 shutout of the Atlanta Braves June 12. Guzman had never pitched consistently well at Comiskey Park, going 2-5 with a 5.01 ERA in eight starts.
This time he held the White Sox only three hitters before a home run by right fielder Ordonez gave them a the lead for good at 1-0. Ordonez's home run halted a string of nine games in which Orioles pitching had not allowed a home run.
Another tendency -- the Orioles' ability to limit innings -- was trashed during the White Sox's three-run fourth. Left fielder Carlos Lee led off with a double over left fielder B. J. Surhoff. Center fielder Chris Singleton immediately followed with a home run that cleared the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead.
The White Sox weren't done. And neither was the Orioles' slipshod defense.
A one-out single by Paul Konerko reignited a rally. Ray Durham then slapped a two-out single to right field that Belle overran for an error, allowing Konerko to take third base. Committing his most egregious piece of waste, Guzman allowed shortstop Mike Caruso to snap an 0-for-17 slump with a single that scored Konerko for a 4-0 lead.
While Guzman was interrupting pitching trends, Sirotka was spoiling their recent offensive fun.
Sirotka had received no decision for allowing the Orioles two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings of a May 4 start. The Orioles swept that series amid a five-game win streak. But Sirotka being left-handed, he represents a natural obstacle to this team.
Though he only narrowly escaped a bases-loaded scare in the first inning, Sirotka's first real misstep came in the fifth inning when Bordick singled and Surhoff extended his career-high hitting streak to 18 games with a home run driven 425 feet to center field. The home run was Surhoff's seventh of the streak and left him with 16 RBIs in the span.
But the Orioles were playing with a short bench, missing second baseman Delino DeShields, in Atlanta to attend the birth of his third child, and they lost catcher Charles Johnson in the fifth inning because of nausea.
The loss of Johnson immediately created defensive problems. Mike Figga was called for catcher's interference in the fifth inning and picked up a second error in the sixth when he threw into center field on Durham's steal of second base. Durham eventually scored an unearned run worth a 5-2 lead on Caruso's deflected ground ball.