By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
11:17 PM EDT, September 5, 2013
In Thursday's 3-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox, Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez regained his confidence, lifted his struggling club, picked up his first win since July and sent the club's fans home in time to watch some of the Ravens' opener in Denver.
Not bad for a guy who turned in his worst start of the season just a few days ago.
“It was fun to be out there and be able to go a little bit deeper than in other games and getting that win. That was important for us,” said Gonzalez (9-7), whose previous victory came July 20. “It was a long time since I got a win. Being able to get that ninth win, just get my confidence back and go out there and just be myself.”
On a much anticipated evening that featured the Ravens opening their Super Bowl defending season on the road in Denver because the Orioles had a previously scheduled contest at Camden Yards, Gonzalez made quick work of the White Sox.
The game lasted just two hours and 37 minutes, and thanks to a 34-minute lightning delay in Denver, was over before the Ravens' first quarter had ended.
The game was played before an announced 17,383, the smallest gathering at Camden Yards since June 10. More than half, however, stayed until the end to see Jim Johnson throw a perfect ninth and pick up his 42nd save of the season.
Although there were thousands fewer at the park than announced (attendance is based on tickets sold, not turnstile numbers), there were more fans at the game than initially anticipated, especially with country music star Keith Urban performing a concert at the Inner Harbor. The night's attendance pushed the Orioles over 2 million fans for the second consecutive season after four straight years drawing under 2 million.
“[Fan support] does mean something to us, but it shouldn't affect the way we play or the intensity we bring. But it makes it easier with the support we've had last year, this year and in the past,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “I'd be supporting the Ravens, too. I am tonight. I'm going back and watch the game. I'm also going to glance over at a couple other [baseball] games. But I don't have a whole lot of interest in the outcome of the Keith Urban concert.”
Gonzalez was the one who really put on a show, and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Orioles (74-65), who are running out of time in their pursuit of a playoff berth.
“This was huge tonight,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “What do we have, 23 (games) left? They are all going to be as big as … tonight. We need to go out there and we need to win as many as we can. We need to get on a streak and this was a good start to this homestand.”
One of the keys to the club's late-season success in 2012, Gonzalez was almost never in trouble against the White Sox (56-83). Only once did he allow more than one baserunner in an inning — the third, when he escaped a bases-loaded jam by allowing only one run on a double play.
He struck out six — his most since Aug. 7 — and lasted seven innings, the second time he has done that in his past 11 starts. It was a departure from his previous outing in New York on Friday in which he allowed seven runs in four innings.
“I wish I had the answers every time. Obviously, I don't,” Showalter said when asked why Gonzalez was so much better Thursday. “I thought he was commanding the ball down in the zone consistently. A lot of counts in his favor. The whole presentation, the tempo. Very confident. It was kind of like he was on a mission tonight. A little driven.”
Although the Orioles' struggling offense didn't exactly break out, it did what it does best: Homer more than any other team in the majors.
They hit three solo shots against Chicago lefty Jose Quintana, (7-6), who had allowed just three homers in his past seven starts.
Adam Jones homered in the first, his 30th, which also marked the first time he has driven in 100 runs in a season. He and teammate Chris Davis are the first pair of Orioles to hit the 100 RBI mark in the same season since Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora in 2008.
“Cool feat,” Jones said. “I share it with my team. I can't do it by myself. Obviously, the 30 home run aspect is more of me. The 100 RBIs, that's a testament to the guys getting on base and running the bases and trying to score every time the ball is put in play.”
Hardy led off the fifth inning with his 25th homer of the season, making him the ninth shortstop since 1901 to have at least three, 25-homer seasons.
“For me it's not a time to think about the personal stuff,” Hardy said. “After the season I might reflect on it, but right now we need to win ballgames. And if it helps to win the ballgame, then it is great.”
With two outs in the fifth, Brian Roberts homered, his fourth of the season and first since Aug. 23. The Orioles have 188 home runs this season, far more than any other club in the majors.
Three of them on Thursday were plenty for Gonzalez, who again looked like the pitcher that excelled for the Orioles a year ago.
“I think it was a reminder to us of how good Miggy's pitched for us the last two years,” Showalter said. “And there's some good things left in there.”
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