By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
11:30 PM EDT, September 6, 2013
Orioles right-hander Scott Feldman strolled to the mound for the ninth inning Friday night with 101 pitches under his belt and a relatively short leash as he saw two relievers warming up in the home bullpen.
The 30-year-old pitcher didn't waste any time, needing just five pitches in the final inning to complete his first career shutout in a 4-0 win over a free-swinging Chicago White Sox team before an announced 26,253 at Camden Yards.
“He was in command all night,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “You could see it in his eyes, once he got through the seventh, he wanted to finish that game on his own.”
Feldman, whom the club traded for just more than two months ago to fortify their starting rotation, turned in the best performance by an Orioles starting pitcher this season and perhaps the finest game of his career, sending the White Sox to their eighth straight loss.
“That's the reason we traded for him,” said Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who ended an eight-game homerless streak with his 48th of the season in the sixth inning. “A guy that was going to go out there, eat up innings, keep us in the ballgame and give us a chance to win.”
The victory pulled the Orioles (75-65) ahead of the New York Yankees and into a tie for third in the American league wild-card standings with the Cleveland Indians.
Feldman (5-4) held the White Sox to just five hits — all singles — in giving the Orioles their first complete game in more than a year, since Jason Hammel threw a shutout June 16, 2012 in Atlanta.
The Orioles hit three home runs off White Sox left-hander John Danks — improving their majors-leading homer total to 191 — including back-to-back homers by Davis and Matt Wieters in the sixth inning. Seventeen of the Orioles' past 18 runs have been scored by home run.
Feldman, however, was the story Friday. Complementing his cutter and sinker with a curveball that worked both corners of the plate. Feldman worked ahead of the White Sox (56-84) all night. He threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 31 batters he faced.
“The first time through they were kind of taking the first pitch a little bit. I think after that, they got a little more aggressive,” Feldman said. “I think I was able to not live on the middle of the plate, kind of live on the corners and hope they would swing and get some early outs that way.
All these games are important, so just to win the game was huge,” Feldman added. “I don't care if I got nine [innings] or seven or whatever it is. As long as we win, it's a good game.”
Feldman, acquired July 2 in a deal that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs, has allowed one or fewer runs in four of his past five starts, going 3-1 and pitching to a 1.36 ERA in that span.
Feldman had also thrown a complete game for the Cubs earlier this season against San Diego.
In the sixth inning, Davis took a hanging 2-2 breaking ball from Danks (4-12) just inside the right-field foul pole and onto the flag court, putting him just two homers shy of Brady Anderson's club record set in 1996.
Wieters immediately followed Davis' blast with his 21st homer of the season. It was his 20th from the catcher position this year, becoming the first player in franchise history to record three straight 20-homer seasons as a catcher.
Danny Valencia — who has provided the Orioles a spark from the designated hitter spot against left-handed pitching — provided the Orioles with a pair of two-out run-scoring hits against Danks.
Valencia, who entered the game batting .333 against lefties, gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead on his seventh homer of the season, a solo shot to left in the third.
Valencia then plated J.J. Hardy with an infield single in the fifth on a ball hit down the third-base line that Jeff Keppinger backhanded but couldn't get to first on time to beat Valencia.
The Orioles caught a break in the top of the third when Keppinger was called out by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck despite replays showing Keppinger touched the plate with his left hand before Wieters made a sweep tag. With Keppinger at second base with two outs and the Orioles leading 1-0, Paul Konerko had singled up the middle, but center fielder Adam Jones recorded his ninth outfield assist, rifling a throw home that Wieters caught on a short hop.
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts also made a pair of nice defensive plays to help Feldman. With one on and two outs in the seventh, Dayan Viciedo hit a ball up the middle that caromed off second base and into the air. Roberts adjusted mid-stride, gloved the ball, and his throw beat Viceido by half a step.
With 22 games left, the Orioles are still in the playoff race, especially if they can get more complete performances like the one they received Friday.
“We know we have to win as many as we can, and I said it last year this time, we can't count on other teams to lose for us to get in,” Davis said. “We've got to do everything we can and let the rest fall where it may.”
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