CHICAGO - -On a night when the much-maligned Jeremy Guthrie pitched like the top-of-the-rotation starter that the Orioles hoped that he would be, diminutive second baseman Brian Roberts continued his transformation into the slugger nobody expects him to be.
Roberts slammed two home runs off Chicago White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, including a tiebreaking, two-run shot in the eighth inning, as the Orioles prevailed, 5-1, in front of an announced 34,125 on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field, and won back-to-back games for the first time since July 29 and 30.
"The clubhouse is a little bit out of control right now, but good for them," manager Dave Trembley said. "That's good for the players. We've certainly been on the other end of some heartbreaking losses, but we earned one like this."
Continuing his out-of-nowhere power surge, Roberts has hit homers in three straight games, a span in which he has driven in eight runs. Roberts also has five homers over the past six games and 13 for the season. Friday night, he enjoyed just the second multi-homer game of his career.
"When you're going good, you always feel different," Roberts said. "I made a few adjustments a little while ago, and they worked out recently. But it's true, you go through the ups and downs of the year, and obviously, this is more of an up than you normally go through. You've got to ride it as long as possible."
It was Roberts' solo homer in the third inning off Floyd that put the Orioles on the board. It was his two-run shot in the eighth that broke up a 1-1 game and started a four-run inning.
"I know my job and my role," he said. "It doesn't really change, no matter who is on this team. We can add Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, and that wouldn't change what my role is. My job is not to pick up the homers that Aubrey [Huff] left off. I just try to do the same thing every day and see what happens."
Nick Markakis also drove in a run in the eighth with a triple, and Ty Wigginton knocked in one with a pinch-hit single.
When the inning began, the Orioles had only one run and four hits off Floyd, the Annapolis native who attended Mount St. Joseph. But Guthrie more than held his own in the pitching duel and was rewarded with his first win since July 19, which also came at U.S. Cellular Field.
"He's pitched just good enough to lose," Trembley said. "Tonight, he pitched far good enough to win. He deserved to win the game tonight. The guys were behind him, but he helped himself. The thing tonight was Guthrie didn't beat himself."
Breaking a four-decision losing streak, Guthrie (8-12) allowed one run on Jim Thome's fourth-inning homer and six hits over seven innings. He consistently worked out of trouble. The White Sox had men on first and second and no outs in the first and sixth innings and never scored.
Guthrie hadn't won in five straight decisions, going 0-4 in that span. He had also allowed five earned runs or more in four of his past five starts. His last quality start came on Aug. 5 at Detroit, when he held the Tigers to three earned runs in 7 1/3 innings but was outpitched by Edwin Jackson.
Trembley said before the game that the key for Guthrie was avoiding a bad first inning, something the right-hander hasn't been able to do often during his difficult season. But he was able to do it Friday night, though it didn't get off to a promising start.
Scott Podsednik led off the bottom of the first with a single and then rookie Gordon Beckham reached on an error by second baseman Roberts.
With men on first and second and no outs and the dangerous Jermaine Dye at the plate, Guthrie and Roberts caught Podsednik too far off second. Guthrie quickly turned around and threw it to the bag, where Roberts had crept in behind the base runner, to get the first out. Guthrie struck out Dye and then got Orioles-killer Thome to fly out to escape the first unscathed.
Guthrie stranded two more runners in the second when Jayson Nix grounded out to shortstop Cesar Izturis.
Floyd retired eight of the first nine Orioles that he faced, three of them by strikeouts. However, Roberts broke the 0-0 tie by lining a home run into the right-field seats. The solo shot also extended his hitting streak to 11games.
The 1-0 lead held through the third inning but didn't make it through the fourth, thanks to one swing by Thome. He blasted a Guthrie offering 412 feet into the right-center-field seats. It was Thome's 23rd homer of the season and 564th of his career, moving him ahead of Reggie Jackson for 12th on the all-time list. He's five behind former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro for 11th place.
Chicago threatened to break the 1-1 tie in the fifth with runners on the corners and just one out. Guthrie got Beckham to hit a comebacker. He fielded it and fired a high throw to second that Izturis caught and converted into an inning-ending double play.
It was a key play in a game Guthrie hopes will help turn things around for him and the team.
"I've heard people talking about cashing it in because we're at the end of the season, but I think that's the last thing on most of these guys' minds," he said. "We have a month to get better, to get some momentum going into next season. And me personally, I have a lot to improve on in the next few starts."
ORIOLES @WHITE SOX
TV: Ch. 13, MASN HD
Radio: 105.7 FM
Closer Johnson relishes opportunity PG 5