The Orioles, behind another good start from rookie Zach Britton, defeated the White Sox 6-4 today to clinch their second straight series and return to .500 for the first time since April 15th. The offense knocked around Marylander Gavin Floyd for six runs, including a five run fifth, giving them enough of a cushion to survive a shaky outing by the bullpen.
Zach Britton didn't have a dominating outing today, but he was good enough to last six innings and give up just one run on a home run by Brent Lillibridge. He allowed base runners in all but one of his innings and he continues to have an alarmingly low number of strikeouts (just one today against three walks), but other than the home run he only allowed four singles and the White Sox weren't able to put together any rallies against him.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on a home run by Luke Scott, his fifth of the season. In the fifth inning, Floyd fell apart. Mark Reynolds started the inning with his third home run of the year, which was followed by a triple by Felix Pie and back-to-back walks to Robert Andino and Brian Roberts. That brought the slumping Nick Markakis to the plate. Nicky jumped on the first pitch he saw and hit it to the left-center gap for a three-run double. After Derrek Lee struck out (he had four on the day) and Vladimir Guerrero hit a fly ball to center field for an easy out, Luke Scott singled up the middle, knocking in
Luke Scott Markakis and making the score 6-0.
Going into the seventh inning with a six run lead, Britton gave way to Jason Berken, who was not effective. The first batter he saw hit a fly ball to center that Felix Pie overran, allowing it to become a double. After a pop out, Berken walked the next two batters to load the bases. Jim Johnson took over for Berken and after retiring Carlos Quentin, he walked Paul Konerko to force in a run and make the score 6-2. After two days of White Sox bullpen meltdowns, was it the Orioles' turn today? The inning ended with a ground out by Alex Rios, but the White Sox weren't finished.
JJ was back out for the eighth inning. He got the first two outs quickly but then walked Beckham and had to battle pinch hitter Adam Dunn. Dunn is off to a slow start, but you woudn't know it from his at-bat, a long fly ball that just kept carrying into the stands. That cut the O's lead to just two runs for closer Kevin Gregg.
Gregg got off to a fantastic start by walking Alexei Ramirez. As Orioles fans the world over shut off their televisions in disgust, Quentin singled up the middle to put the winning run at the plate with no outs. Gregg went to a 2-2 count on Paul Konerko before throwing a pitch on the inside edge of the strike zone for a called strike three. Konerko gave the umpire a little bit of grief over it, but sat down. The next batter, Rios, was also called out on strikes, but his third strike was obviously out of the zone. It wasn't particularly close, either. Rios argued vehemently and was tossed from the game in short order. It was a lucky break for the Orioles, who usually seem to be on the other side of those calls. That left things up to A.J. Pierzynski, who grounded out to end the game.
Tomorrow is the series finale in which the Orioles will go for the sweep. It'll be the battle of staff veterans with Jeremy Guthrie against Mark Buerhle. Get out your brooms!