Gonzalez gets out of jam, Andino stars again as O's beat White Sox, 6-2

Team ends April with most wins, 12, since 2007

April 30, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO — — Michael Gonzalez, the much-maligned left-handed relief specialist who Oriole fans jeer at every opportunity, got the six biggest outs of the game while the outcome was still very much in doubt Saturday. Robert Andino, the enigmatic shortstop who nobody wanted after the Orioles designated him for assignment late last spring, again displayed his all-around talent by saving runs and scoring them.

The pair, along with some more sloppy play by the struggling Chicago White Sox, allowed the Orioles to finish off April with four wins in their past five games, the latest one a 6-2 victory in front of an announced 26,104 at U.S. Cellular Field.

After back-to-back victories over Chicago, the Orioles improved to 12-13, and have their most wins in April since the 2007 squad also took 12 wins. The White Sox, meanwhile, have now dropped 14 of their last 17 games, and lost sixth straight time at home.

"I think the star of the game was Gonzo," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

Chris Tillman, pitching for the first time in 12 days, allowed one run on six hits and two walks over five-plus innings. He got his first win in 2011, largely because Gonzalez stepped into an extremely difficult spot and was able to hold the Orioles' lead.

Gonzalez, who inherited a bases-loaded and no-out jam with the Orioles leading by two runs in the sixth inning, allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly that would have been an out had catcher Jake Fox been able to handle Adam Jones' perfect throw home.

Returning to his trademark rocking motion on the mound after he decided to go back to "square one," Gonzalez fanned A.J. Pierzynski to strand two base runners and end the sixth. He then retired all three White Sox that he faced in the seventh, two of them on strikeouts.

He entered the game with a 13.50 ERA and having been scored on in four straight outings and in six of his seven appearances this season, prompting many fans to call for his release.

"Overall, it was huge for me," said Gonzalez, who hit 96 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun and threw 17 of his 26 pitches for strikes. "Like I said, the last few outings I had, I felt like I was a click, a tick away. It had nothing to do with velocity. Velocity was good. It's been good the whole year. It's just been getting that rhythm. I felt the rhythm that last outing. I didn't get the results I wanted. I was just so anxious to get out there tonight and show the rhythm I had."

When Showalter handed Gonzalez the ball, he said that he told the struggling reliever, "Hey, you got nothing to lose. Let it hang out. Let's go.'"

"He's got a new look. We talked about it with [the media] after his last outing. He had good quality stuff. It was a big momentum swing there, him coming in," Showalter said. "I was really proud of him. He was beating himself up pretty good."

Andino, who was 2-for-5 Saturday and has five hits in eight at-bats in the series, hit a solo homer in the third inning off White Sox starter Phil Humber to give the Orioles a 2-0 advantage. He made sure they kept the lead in the fourth by making a gorgeous diving stop up the middle to start a double play on Alex Rios with two men on and nobody out.

"He seems to get everything these days," said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. "That's a huge play for us. That's a game changer."

Andino then spearheaded the Orioles' four-run eighth with a hit and some hustle. With Roberts at the plate against lefty Matt Thornton, Andino stole second base. He then broke for third when Thornton's third strike on Roberts got by Pierzynzki. Roberts took off for first and Pierzynski's throw beat him, but first baseman Adam Dunn couldn't handle it. Andino then raced home to give the Orioles a two-run lead.

"I just took an aggressive turn at third," Andino said. "I wanted to see exactly what he did, see if he threw it away or something. Once I saw that bill hit the dirt, I just took off."

Thornton then allowed a single to Nick Markakis and walked Derrek Lee to load the bases. Vladimir Guerrero then came through with a two-run single and Luke Scott hit a sacrifice fly to give the Orioles a 6-1 lead.

Roberts' play was the third time in the first two games of the series that an Orioles batter has gotten to first base on a third strike, and two of the times resulted in rallies. Also in the first two games, the Orioles have tallied eight runs, five hits and seven walks in five innings against Chicago's bullpen.

"A.J. is a good catcher," Roberts said. "Those are things you don't see too often in any big league game, much less by a catcher that is a good as A.J. is, and a bullpen as good as theirs. But when those things do happen, you have to take advantage and we've been able to do that. I think that's something that you see teams that win games do. They take advantage of little things, little mistakes or breaks in the game."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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