The Orioles started their six-game trip to Chicago with a big win, defeating ace pitcher Chris Sale and piling on to the White Sox terrible bullpen. Bud Norris pitched a heck of a game, with an assist from Nick Markakis, holding the White Sox lineup to just two runs on three hits in the 8-2 win.
The final score of this game makes it look like the Orioles just steamrolled the White Sox, but it was a very close game through the first seven innings. Bud Norris was given the unenviable task of matching up against Chris Sale, but he came out on top. He just out-pitched Sale and it was great to see.
Norris allowed just one base runner through the first six innings, a single to Jordan Danks in the third. But Danks did the Orioles a favor by trying to steal second base, where he was thrown out by a mile by Caleb Joseph. (Don't run on Caleb!) Through six innings, Bud's pitching line was 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K. He had faced the minimum number of batters and thrown just 64 pitches. In short, he was pitching the way we all expected the guy on the other team to pitch.
Speaking of the other guy, Chris Sale again fell victim to the Orioles. Sale is a fantastic pitcher, no two ways about it. He came into this game with a 2.01 ERA in 2014 and a 2.77 ERA in his career. But in eight career appearances against the Orioles before tonight, Sale has pitched to a 5.28 ERA with the Orioles hitting .365/.459/.603 against him. That's pretty good.
The Orioles started the game off with two straight singles from Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce, but couldn't get a run in. J.J. Hardy made up for it in the second inning with a solo home run to left field. It was the home run #7 for Hardy and just the 8th that Sale has given up this year. The O's scored again in the fifth inning when Pearce doubled in Markakis, who was on base with his second single of the game. Adam Jones then hit a ball up the middle that looked like it was heading into center field. Bobby Dickerson waved Pearce home but the ball was grabbed at the last moment by second baseman Gordon Beckham. Beckham threw home to nail Pearce at the plate. The call was challenged by Buck Showalter but the ruling on the field stood.
Sale really fell apart in the top of the sixth inning, but the Orioles only managed one run. The very first batter of the inning, Nelson Cruz, homered to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead. The home run was Cruz's 32nd on the year. The very next batter, Delmon Young, doubled and moved to third on a fly ball. But after Caleb Joseph worked a two-out walk, Sale struck out Jonathan Schoop to end the inning. That was the end of the road for Sale, whose final pitching line was 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 8 K, 2 HR. That's really not an awful pitching line, it's just pretty bad by Chris Sale standards. Coming into tonight, Sale had given up two or less earned runs in 14 of his 19 starts. He had pitched more than six innings in 12 of his 19 starts. It was the first time he'd given up more than one home run in a game this year and just the 7th time that he had walked more than one. What I'm saying is the Orioles might have only scored three times against him, but they still knocked him around.
With a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning, Norris had his first bad inning of the night. A pitch got away from him and hit the first batter, Alejandro De Aza, and then Alexei Ramirez doubled to right field, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Bud almost, ALMOST, got out of it. He got Jose Abreu to fly out to shallow center field for the first out, and struck Adam Dunn out looking for the second. He just needed to retire Avisail Garcia to hold on to the shutout, but he couldn't do it. Garcia hit a ground ball that just got through the hole at second base, scoring both runners. It was a cheap hit, but a hit all the same.
Suddenly it was just a one run game, and Conor Gillaspie hit a ball to deep right field that looked like it could go out of the park to give the White Sox the lead. At the very least it looked like it would tie the game, but Nick Markakis raced back to the wall, leaped, and made an amazing catch! What a play by Nicky! That saved the lead and Bud's bacon.
With that drama out of the way, the O's got down to the business of beating up on the White Sox bullpen. Specifically, they beat up former Oriole Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom came into with the two runners on and two outs, trying to bail out his fellow relief pitchers. Instead, he walked Caleb Joseph and gave up a bases clearing double to Schoop. Markakis followed that with a two-run dinger, and after Pearce doubled, Lindstrom was pulled from the game. He didn't retire a batter and allowed both inherited runners and three of his own score. Not a good day for Matt Lindstrom. Let's hope that's the beginning of a trend where the Orioles beat up their former teammates in Chicago, since Jake Arrieta is scheduled to pitch against them on Friday at Wrigley Field.
Bud Norris had only 82 pitches but didn't return for the eighth inning. In his post game interview, Buck Showalter said he would have sent Bud back out but didn't want to after the long wait in the eighth while the Orioles were busy scoring runs. No biggie, Brad Brach just came in and pitched two perfect innings to end the game. I'd be a terrible person if I didn't point out that one of those outs was on an awesome sliding catch by Nelson Cruz. Cruz looked as surprised as anyone that he made the catch and celebrated with some finger guns. It was good times all around in Birdland.