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O’s drop the series finale as Kyle Gibson allows seven to the White Sox, 10-5

It turns out that even Chicago’s offense can hit breaking balls left up in the zone.

Chicago White Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Much too much of this today.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Pitching and defense win championships….and then there’s whatever happened in Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon. Looking for a series sweep—and spotted four quick runs by his offense, Kyle Gibson gave up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings, one of his worst outings of the year. Even the defense sagged: after one Orioles error in their last eight games, Cedric Mullins had one today, plus a second error that, despite being erased by the official scorers, allowed the Sox to blow the game open against Austin Voth in relief.

The Orioles have 40 comeback wins on the year, but even they couldn’t climb out of the 10-5 hole that Voth and Gibson dug for them.

That the White Sox would come away with a win today was downright insane if you watched how it all started. Dylan Cease allowed four runs in the first inning, and it felt like an Orioles rout was inevitable. The Birds scored a run off Cease before they’d made an out, as Gunnar Henderson and Anthony Santander hit the right-field corner with back-to-back doubles. A third run scored on a Ryan O’Hearn single to left field. O’Hearn broke for second and Cease, already in the middle of his windup, turned around to see. He fired home without looking and plunked Cedric Mullins in the bicep. (There’s one for Jayson Stark’s Weird and Wild: How many MLB pitchers have thrown a no-look pitch during a game? Now I know one.)

The White Sox seemed in shambles. Still in the first, they proceeded to drop a pop foul, not throw home while O’Hearn scored on a Frazier single, and also let Adam Frazier steal second easily. “Oh my goodness!” exclaimed announcer Kevin Brown. “The White Sox can’t do anything right in the field!” Well, they did one thing right: Jordan Westburg flew out and Frazier ran into a TOOTBLAN between second and third. Rally: squished.

A 4-0 lead after the first inning felt gigantic, but boy, how that worm turned.

Struggling to hit the low strike (and not getting a few calls), Gibson allowed a second-inning single, then an oppo-field home run to Andrew Vaughn. Then, déjà vu all over again: a single set the table for Chicago’s No. 8 hitter Oscar Colas, OPS’ing .581 but looking like a slugger today. It was 4-4, and a brand-new ballgame.

To make matters worse, Kyle Gibson could not pull it together in the third. The White Sox pulled ahead with three more runs. Luis Robert made it 5-4 with a solo homer. Eloy Jiménez and Andrew Vaughn hit back-to-back doubles to make it 6-4. Elvis Andrus drove in a seventh run with a single. Gibson finally found the beautiful sweeper in the fourth to save Austin Voth a little work. But his day ended with one down in the fifth inning and the O’s down 7-4.

U-G-L-Y. There was no alibi for this terrible outing, one of Gibson’s worst of the year.

Even with those numbers on the scoreboard, you thought the Birds might have a chance at pulling off a comeback against Chicago’s bad bullpen, fourth-worst in the AL and already responsible for 13 late runs in two games this series. A comeback plan could have worked like this: Hit long balls. Hold the line. Get Cease out of there.

Ultimately, they had some luck with the first, but not much with the last two.

Anthony Santander homered to bring the Birds within two. But Austin Voth coughed up three more runs. With two runners on by single and walk, the ice-cold Tim Anderson plopped a ball in front of Cedric Mullins who, instead of diving for it, sort of ran past it and let the ball dribble to the wall. I’ve never seen him make such a play. If he did it often, he would be out of a job. The official scorers called this a triple, but I think that’s nuts.

Unfortunately, this made it 10-5 White Sox with Cease still out there. This was a terrible reversal after Cease had looked like such a sitting duck, having to throw 30 pitches in the first inning alone. But as the game went on, he racked up the K’s (seven) while looking more and more like the pitcher of 2022 and—most importantly—keeping the White Sox from having to go to their ‘pen.

Cease finally exited for the seventh and what do you know: Jimmy Lambert of the 5.55 ERA and 1.654 WHIP kept the Orioles off the board for two innings. All Gregory Santos, playing closer today, had to do was lock up a win with a five-run lead in the ninth. Not a tough assignment, and he passed the test, even though he gave up back-to-back hits to lead off the inning.

With an 83-50 record (.624 win percentage), even a winning team like the Orioles loses one out of every three games. So a day like this isn’t the end of the world. But if the O’s continue their winning ways into the postseason—and (duh) let’s hope they do—one nagging question from today is whether Kyle Gibson, with a 6.28 ERA in his last 15 starts, still has a secure place in the rotation.