CHICAGO - Sal Fasano is supposed to guide a pitcher through his starts, block balls in the dirt, throw out runners, do the things that keep a backup catcher with limited offensive skills in the majors.
He's also expected to appreciate his time there, knowing how easily it can be taken away.
Making his first start after having his contract purchased from Triple-A Ottawa on Wednesday, Fasano hit a 398-foot home run in the third inning to provide a lead against Cuban defector Jose Contreras, and added to it with a seventh-inning single that scored Keith Reed in the Orioles' 6-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox yesterday at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Orioles (24-13) gained a split of the four-game series and moved 11 games above .500 for the fourth time this season. They head to Kansas City, a team with the worst record in baseball, after winning two straight against the best and increasing their AL East lead to two games.
David Newhan also drove in two runs, with his first homer and a sacrifice fly, and left-hander Erik Bedard took a two-hit shutout bid into the seventh. Bedard allowed hits to two of the first three batters he faced, but not another until Carl Everett and Jermaine Dye had consecutive homers in the seventh, his last inning.
Fasano became the 20th player in Orioles' history to homer in his first game with the club, and the sixth to do it in his first at-bat. He hadn't gone deep for anyone since Sept. 6, 2001, or been in the majors since 2002.
"That's always a bonus," he said. "It was a good day."
"Sal was huge," Brian Roberts said. "We don't put guys out there if we don't expect them to do something."
The White Sox (27-11), who won the first two games of the series, failed to take a lead for the first time this season. They were outscored 15-8 in the two defeats. "I think this shows a lot about our team," Roberts said. "We could have rolled over and died after the first two. But when you play .500 on the road against good teams, you're doing pretty well."
Before yesterday, opponents were batting a league-low .197 against Contreras. Left-handers were hitting .174, and the Orioles had four in their lineup, including Newhan.
The venue also suited Contreras, who posted a 1.82 ERA at home, compared to 5.40 on the road. But the Orioles tossed aside those numbers and handed Contreras (1-1) his first defeat, chasing him in the seventh inning after Jay Gibbons' double, Fasano's single and a walk to rookie Jeff Fiorentino.
Every starter had a hit except Javy Lopez, who went 0-for-16 with a walk in Chicago.
Reed, who pinch-ran for Gibbons, collected his first major league hit and RBI in the eighth to bump the Orioles' lead to 6-2.
First base coach Rick Dempsey retrieved the ball and tossed it to Miguel Tejada in the dugout. Tejada motioned as if ready to chuck it into the crowd, then pretended not to hear Dempsey's pleas to stop.
"It's good to get it out of the way early," said Reed, who also joined the Orioles on Wednesday. "I can relax a little bit."
Fasano crushed a 1-1 slider from Contreras, giving him 31 major league home runs in 673 at-bats. This one came in his hometown, with his parents, brother and in-laws watching.
"It's nice to be home and have a good day. It makes your family happy," he said. "Plus, we get a W. It was an exciting day for me."
Fasano missed the entire 2003 season after elbow surgery. He signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees but never left Triple-A Columbus in 2004.
The Orioles liked the way he handled their young staff in spring training, and gave assurances that he'd be promoted if a need arose. He wasn't going to be buried in the minors again.
"I'm pretty gratified for the chance that Baltimore has given me," he said.
Bedard allowed two singles and a stolen base and threw a wild pitch in the first inning, but the White Sox didn't score. Tadahito Iguchi hit into a double play after Scott Podsednik's leadoff single, and Aaron Rowand later was stranded at third.
Able to throw all his pitches for strikes, Bedard retired 15 of 19, walking three and hitting a batter. He's allowed four earned runs in his past 37 innings and won four straight decisions.
"I just feel more relaxed this year, more confident," he said.
It must be spreading.
"After the second game, everybody was like, `Relax. So what?' We definitely didn't panic," Roberts said. "Last year, maybe we'd say, `We lost the first two to a first-place team. Maybe we're not good enough.' But we believe in each other."
In their series with the White Sox, who have the major leagues' best record, the Orioles:
Became the first opponent to prevent Chicago from leading at any time in a game this season.
Became the first opponent to win two games at U.S. Cellular Field this season.
Hit five home runs against a staff that ranks second in the AL in homers allowed.