It's hard to win two baseball games in the same day. Harder still when you're the Orioles and you end up facing Chris Sale in one of those two games. If there's one game to win, though, it's the second game, because that's the one everyone will remember when they're going home. The O's were up to this task in a two-for-one doubleheader on Thursday afternoon, grabbing the split with the White Sox with a 6-3 victory in the later game.
The less said about the first game, the better. Orioles hitters struck out 12 times against Sale in 7.2 innings, a total of 16 times in the game. They had a whopping one at-bat in the game with a runner in scoring position, and neither of their runs in the 3-2 loss scored in that at-bat. Chris Davis crushed his 11th home run of the year in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Orioles two runs.
This might have been more interesting if Tommy Hunter didn't give up a run in the top of the ninth inning to make it a 3-0 game instead of the 2-0 game it had been. Hunter might have escaped the inning without a problem except for a misplay by J.J. Hardy that cost a run. That's what my fellow Camden Chatters who were at the game told me, anyway. I didn't see the play at the time because I was buying them beer, but I feel fairly confident in saying that when Stacey Folkemer is disappointed in Hardy, then he really messed up.
Anyway, so that sucked. The Orioles lost. Let's move on.
A brand new ballgame
The second game did not suck, although it began ominously enough, with Adam Eaton hitting a leadoff home run against Mike Wright, the first run Wright allowed in the big leagues. Well, it had to happen some time.
For the White Sox, the second game featured the major league debut of Chris Beck as the starting pitcher. For once, the Orioles made a rookie making his debut look the way you're supposed to make the rookie making his debut look. Manny Machado welcomed Beck to the show with a leadoff triple. Even after Jimmy Paredes walked, the O's avoided the customary double play; Machado scored on an Adam Jones groundout, with Paredes coming across on a ground rule double hit by Davis.
Even after Chicago once again left Wright staring at the business end of a home run ball as it soared into the distance in the third inning, putting the Orioles down by a 3-2 score, the O's did not let the White Sox hold that lead for more than half of an inning.
The rally in the bottom of the third inning began with Jones poking a single the other way. Davis followed with a walk, perhaps because Beck watched how hard he hit the ball earlier. I like when there's two men on, which is not, in fact, what she said.
Next up was catcher Steve Clevenger. The game represented his first big league action of the year after being summarily banished to Norfolk on the second day of the season. He was happy to show what the team was missing. Clevenger drove a single into left field, one of those balls that's just far enough to get the Windmill spinning but not so far away as to make you feel good about the fact that the runner is headed home.
In this case the runner was Jones. The send was probably terrible, as most of Bobby Dickerson's sends appear to be, with the ball beating Jones to the plate and requiring an extremely awkward slide from Jones. However, the ball skipped away from Sox catcher Geovany Soto, allowing Jones to be safe and both runners to advance. Jones looked like he might have done something to his ankle on the play, running into the dugout and disappearing down the tunnel. He came out the next inning and never left the game, though.
The O's grabbed the lead back the very next batter as Hardy hit an infield single (?) that resulted in Davis scoring to give the team a 4-3 lead.
That was enough for Wright to get through five innings and qualify for the second win of his big league career. He came out of the game after five, having only thrown 81 pitches, which seemed like a curious decision at the time. Over Wright's five innings, he gave up three runs on six hits. The two home runs were what did all of the damage against him.
Call to the pen
With Wright out, the game was turned over to the bullpen. First to get the call was Oliver Drake. It seemed that the Sox had gotten some basic intelligence on Drake from his early big league action, namely, "don't swing at that pitch that drops out of the zone," because Drake kept throwing it, it kept being below the strike zone, and the Sox were not swinging. Drake issued back-to-back walks to start his inning, just what you want to see.
Drake followed up the walks by giving up a loud line drive fairly deep to right field. O's right fielder Travis Snider caught the ball. As you'd expect, the runner at second tagged on a play like that. Unlike you'd expect, so did Gordon Beckham, who was on first. Snider hit the cutoff man and Beckham was left hanging on the basepath. He tried to scramble back to first base in vain, instead recording one of the worst TOOTBLANs you will ever see. Thanks, Gordon.
One more batter walked before a line drive right at Ryan Flaherty ended the inning. I'm still not sure how nobody scored there. I'm also not complaining.
The rest of the game was less stressful, not least of which because the O's added an insurance run in each of the sixth and seventh innings. Flaherty led off the bottom of the sixth with a double and eventually was driven in by Snider, which happened to be Snider's first RBI since some time in April.
Flaherty played a role the next inning as well. Though the Orioles won't get their chance for payback against Marlins manager Dan Jennings, they could get even against people named Dan Jennings thanks to the White Sox deploying a reliever of the same name.
The key play in the inning came after Flaherty singled to give the O's runners on the corners with two outs. David Lough hit a crappy little infield grounder that was crappy enough for his speed to take over, and Beckham, the shortstop, managed to throw the ball into right field instead of to the first baseman. This was some Little League stuff. Flaherty and Lough just kept on running.
Eventually J.B. Shuck, the Sox right fielder, fired the ball home, by which time Flaherty was headed for the plate. He was tagged out - although I'm still not sure how, because from our perspective it looked like Soto laid the worst tag attempt of history. The O's didn't challenge, however, and anyway Clevenger scored on the play to give the team a 6-3 lead.
The O's bullpen trio of Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, and Zach Britton each pitched a perfect inning to close out the game. Britton got his 13th save of the season in the process.
Next up for the Orioles is a three-game weekend series against the Rays in Baltimore. The opening game is Friday night, with first pitch scheduled for the standard civilized baseball start time of 7:05pm Eastern. Nathan Karns and Miguel Gonzalez are the currently scheduled starting pitchers for the opener.