Chris Davis’ ninth-inning heroics Monday night masked the reality of just how bad the Orioles had been with runners in scoring position in that game.
Their offense Tuesday wasn’t afforded a similar bailout -- although it came close -- in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox before an announced 20,596 at Camden Yards.
Despite having ample opportunities, the Orioles were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position Tuesday against White Sox left-handed starter Jose Quintana, and 1-for-9 overall. The Orioles were 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position and left 17 men on base in the first two games of the series.
“You go through those little streaks, and we are in one of them right now,” said right fielder Nick Markakis, who was hitless in four at-bats. “But we’ll look to get out of that and do the best we can.”
The Orioles managed nine hits and four walks Tuesday, but they struck out eight times and hit into four double plays. That’s a tough recipe for success, no matter who is on the mound, though Quintana pitched well.
“I think he was pretty good today. He’s a guy that short-arms the ball, and the ball jumps out of his hand,” Markakis said. “You saw him freeze me there once, [Davis] there once. It is tough to get in a rhythm when you don’t see the ball behind his back, and he short-arms it with good velocity. It’s tough.”
The Orioles (40-36) had their modest three-game winning streak snapped by the White Sox (36-42), who had lost five consecutive games and eight straight on the road.
For a few moments in the ninth, it looked like the Orioles might mount a second consecutive comeback. Davis led off the ninth against left-hander Scott Downs and hit a single that bounced off the glove of second baseman Gordon Beckham, who was playing in shallow right field as part of a shift.
The White Sox then brought in closer Ronald Belisario, who gave up Davis’ three-run, walk-off homer Monday. Belisario got J.J. Hardy to hit a comebacker for a fielder’s choice. Manny Machado followed with a single and pinch-hitter Delmon Young singled to score Hardy.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter then decided to pinch-hit Ryan Flaherty, who entered the game batting .216, for Caleb Joseph, who was hitting .171 but had homered in consecutive games.
“There's not a wrong or good [there],” Showalter said.
With the tying run at first base, Belisario induced a double play ball by Flaherty to pick up his eighth save of the season.
That moment amplified one of this club’s major weaknesses. Besides Young, the Orioles have very few offensive options off the bench. Nick Hundley and David Lough, who was used as a pinch runner, are hitting under .200.
Flaherty’s double play was a fitting end to a night in which neither team could generate big hits.
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez was shaky in nearly every inning, but he didn’t allow more than one run in any frame.
“Bent but didn't break. Kept us engaged in the game. Gave us some chances,” Showalter said about Gonzalez. “His command was off from what we've come to expect. He fought his way through five innings.”
The White Sox scored in the first when Beckham smacked a 91-mph sinker into the left-field stands for a 1-0 lead on Gonzalez’s 11th pitch of the game. It was just the fourth run allowed in the first inning this season by the Orioles right-hander.
Making his second start since coming off the disabled list with an oblique strain, Gonzalez allowed a second run in the second inning on an RBI single by Alejandro De Aza that scored Alexei Ramirez.
The White Sox nearly scored another run in the inning when De Aza raced home from third on a delayed double steal with Adam Eaton, who moved from first to second. Joseph, the Orioles catcher, threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who alertly threw back to Joseph to easily nab a sliding De Aza.
“Just struggled first inning, second inning. Those two runs, and then I settled down a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “I had  pitches in the first two innings. I've got to make pitches when I need to and get out of big innings."
After a five-pitch third inning, Gonzalez ran into more trouble in the fourth, allowing three consecutive two-out singles, the last by No. 9 hitter Tyler Flowers that gave Chicago a 3-0 lead.
In the fifth, Gonzalez loaded the bases with no outs, but he got a pop-up and double play to escape further damage and end his outing. He allowed nine hits and three walks in five innings, but left with the Orioles trailing by just three runs.
T.J. McFarland entered and threw two scoreless innings. In seven appearances since June 4, McFarland has allowed just one run over a span of 14 2/3 innings (0.61 ERA).
Chicago added its final run in the eighth when Ramirez singled against Tommy Hunter, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball by Joseph and then scored when Joseph missed the tag at home plate.
“Jonathan [Schoop] made a great play to give me a perfect strike, and I just kinda got caught in between. The rule states that when I do get the ball, I’m able to be aggressive at that play, and I was just very passive at it,” Joseph said. “I’ll learn from it, and next time I’ll be more aggressive in tagging him.”
The Orioles scored their lone run against Quintana when Steve Pearce homered on the first pitch of the sixth inning. Pearce had already extended his seven-game hitting streak in the third with a single. In those seven games, Pearce is 13-for-27 (.482 average) with three homers, eight RBIs and six multihit performances.
Otherwise they could do nothing against Quintana (4-7), who allowed one run in seven innings in his first win since May 26.
Afterward, Showalter stressed the difficulty of the pitchers the club has faced recently -- on Sunday they beat the New York Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka and then they got the win Monday in a game started by White Sox ace Chris Sale. They also faced New York’s Hiroki Kuroda and the Tampa Bay Rays' Alex Cobb in the last week. They are 4-2 beginning with beating Cobb on Wednesday.
“If you look at the last five or six guys we've faced, they're as good a pitchers as you want to find," Showalter said. “Come through that stretch of games about as good as you can hope when you draw it up. We'd like to win every one of them, but we know what reality is."
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