Orioles hold on to beat White Sox, 6-4

May 01, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec | Baltimore Sun reporter

CHICAGO — As a whole, the Orioles' offense is not completely clicking. There are still too many hitters struggling to string together quality at-bats and carrying batting averages well below their career norms.

But for fleeting moments -- often for just one inning at a time -- there are signs that the Orioles could have the type of offense that will frustrate quality pitchers, and give the Orioles' own starters a little more reason for comfort.

Luke Scott and Mark Reynolds both hit solo homers, but it was the Orioles' five-run fifth inning off Gavin Floyd, along with another quality start by rookie Zach Britton, that carried the visitors to a 6-4 victory Sunday over the struggling Chicago White Sox in front of an announced 22,919 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Slumping right fielder Nick Markakis, who entered his fifth-inning at-bat 0 for his last 16 with runners in scoring position, got the key hit with a three-run double off Floyd. The Orioles have scored 22 runs in the first three games of the series, though 14 of them have come in just three innings. They tallied five in the seventh inning of Friday's series opener, four in the eighth on Saturday and five in the fifth today.

"I think we lost a bunch of games in a row there and we weren't really beating ourselves, we just weren't getting the job done. We weren't getting the timely hits that we needed during the eight-game skid," said Orioles closer Kevin Gregg, who escaped a jam in the ninth to pick up his fifth save. "You're seeing, and you saw it before, how good this team is now when the offense is going. When the offense is going and they are getting the timely hitting early in the game, it allows our young starters to be a lot more comfortable out there. I think that's huge for us."

The Orioles (13-13), who have won three straight games and five of their past six, will go for a four-game sweep of the White Sox Monday night behind No.1 starter Jeremy Guthrie. They'll start the game as a .500 club for the first time since April 15, when they were 6-6.

There were some anxious moments that accompanied their latest victory, as the White Sox nearly erased a 6-0 deficit. Jim Johnson allowed just one run in getting Jason Berken out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the seventh inning. He came back out for the eighth and surrendered a towering, two-run, pinch-hit homer by Adam Dunn that made the score 6-4.

Trying to protect the two-run lead, Gregg allowed two White Sox to reach to start the ninth. However, he struck out Paul Konerko looking and then was the recipient of an extremely generous called third strike on a 3-2 pitch to Alex Rios, who was ejected for arguing home plate umpire Corey Blaser's call. Gregg retired A.J. Pierzynski on a groundout to end the game and finalize the White Sox's seventh straight loss at home, their fifth straight overall, and their 15th defeat in the past 18 games.

"Definitely not the situation I wanted to be in, put myself [in] with two guys on and nobody out," Gregg said. "That part of the order is not like, 'Woo hoo, this is what I want to do.' But I had to execute my pitches and trust that I can execute those pitches in those situations."

The Orioles took control of the game in the fifth when Markakis said that Floyd, the Annapolis native and former Mount St. Joseph standout, started getting into a pattern and ignoring his fastball. Reynolds started the inning with a 412-foot solo homer to left-center field, his third of the season.

Getting a rare start in center field in place of Adam Jones, Felix Pie tripled and then Robert Andino and Brian Roberts drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Markakis quickly cleared them by lining the double into left center.

"It definitely felt good. Look at my numbers with guys in scoring position. How can it not feel good?" said Markakis, who started the at-bat with a .136 average (3-for-22) with runners in scoring position. "I felt like it was a big hit in the game and it pushed us up there."

It was Markakis' first extra-base hit since April 14, which was also the day of his last hit with runners in scoring position, and it alleviated some recent frustration. Markakis lost a potential home run to the wind Saturday night, and has also watched White Sox defenders take away two hits with diving plays during the series.

"He told me, 'I'm going to church again tomorrow.' He said, 'Can I go three times in one day?' " Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Nicky is mentally tough. He knows the confidence that we have in him. I thought obviously the double was one of the keys to the game."

It certainly gave Britton some margin for error. Battling a callus on his pitching hand, Britton was consistently falling behind hitters and then having trouble putting them away. The White Sox couldn't scratch any runs off him, however, until Brent Lillibridge drove an 0-2 pitch deep into the left-center field seats to start the fifth inning.

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