It was a costly base-running error by the Chicago White Sox's Gordon Beckham in the fifth inning Tuesday night that helped Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie escape a bases-loaded-and-one-out jam while giving up only one run.
Two innings later, it was one swing by Beckham that ruined Guthrie's night and made what has long been a formality into reality for the Orioles. Beckham broke a seventh-inning tie with a three-run homer to center, pushing the White Sox to a 7-5 victory in front of an announced 26,263 at U.S. Cellular Field and clinching the Orioles' 13th straight losing season.
"He did a great job," Guthrie said of Beckham. "I don't know much about hitting, but it looked like a perfect swing, and he got all of it. I told Matt [Wieters], 'If I get ahead of him, I'd like to see if we can go up and away.' I was thinking pop-up, worst-case scenario, maybe a swing and a miss. But big swing. A big moment right there."
The Orioles, who led 2-0 in the fourth inning, lost for the first time in seven series openers under manager Buck Showalter. They fell to 44-82, including 12-9 under Showalter.
Trailing by five heading into the ninth inning, the first four Orioles reached base, allowing them to bring the tying run to the plate. But Bobby Jenks, who inherited runners on the corners and no outs and a 3-0 count to Ty Wigginton after J.J. Putz left with an injury, got Wigginton to hit into a double play. He then retired Luke Scott, who had homered earlier in the game, to end it.
"The game is not always fair," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "[Wigginton] squares the ball up right up the middle. If that balls up there, we kind of got them backed in a corner there with our lineup. But the game is not fair. I absolutely liked the way the guys battled and gave us an opportunity."
Guthrie and White Sox starter Gavin Floyd (Mount St. Joseph) dueled for six innings, both doing well to limit the damage. But needing to retire the bottom of the White Sox order to keep the score tied at 2 heading into the eighth, Guthrie appeared to run out of gas.
He gave up a leadoff single to A.J. Pierzynski, and after striking out Alexei Ramirez, he allowed a double to Mark Teahen to put men on second and third with one out. Guthrie quickly got ahead of Beckham 1-2, but he left a pitch up and over the plate that Beckham drilled 404 feet to dead center field. The three-run homer was his eighth home run of the season.
"He wanted to get a pitch out up in the zone and out of the zone, and he got it middle, middle," Showalter said. "Obviously, late in the game, they're not going to miss that. But he deserved an opportunity there to win his own game."
Three batters later, Guthrie threw his final pitch, a fastball that hit Alex Rios in the back, drawing a warning for both dugouts by plate umpire D.J. Reyburn. Floyd had hit Orioles center fielder Adam Jones in the back in the fourth inning, eventually forcing him from the game with a left shoulder bruise.
"We won't know exactly what we're dealing with until tomorrow, but his range of motion was a little limited," Showalter said of Jones.
"It's gotten a little bit better, but I was in there talking to him, looking at the spot, it's a pretty nasty welt there. It's more catching. If you know Adam and especially listening to everybody else talk, if he lets you see any ounce of discomfort, you know he's in a lot of pain. He's a tough kid."
Guthrie (7-13) surrendered six earned runs on 10 hits, two walks and two hit batters.
He has given up 11 earned runs over his past two starts after surrendering just six earned runs in his first six outings after the All-Star break.
Floyd (9-10) got the win, improving to 3-1 with a 2.58 ERA in five career starts against his hometown Orioles. He allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out six.
The Orioles had a great chance in the second inning to jump on Floyd and take the early lead. Jones worked a leadoff walk and went to third on a single to right field by Felix Pie, who had three hits and two outfield assists in the loss.
With Wieters at the plate, Chicago (68-57) was willing to concede a run, and that's what would have happened if not for a base-running blunder by Jones.
Instead of coming home on Wieters' ground ball to first baseman Paul Konerko, Jones broke from third and then froze. Meanwhile, Konerko, without even glancing at Jones, threw to Ramirez at second, and then Ramirez threw to first to complete the double play. Cesar Izturis then grounded out, stranding Jones at third base.
Floyd needed just three pitches to escape a runners-on-the-corners-and-no-outs jam. The good news was Jones wouldn't make the same mistake two innings later.
Scott broke the scoreless tie in the fourth by driving Floyd's 1-1 pitch into the right-field seats.