CHICAGO – Nolan Reimold admitted his uneasyness in stepping into the leadoff spot in the Orioles batting order – unsure how he’d be able to adapt in an unfamiliar role -- but over the past few games, he certainly seems more than comfortable there.
Over his past four games, the 28-year-old Reimold has sparked the Orioles offense -- hitting home runs in each of those games -- his latest a two-run shot that broke a scoreless tie in the sixth and helped the Orioles to a 3-2 win over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy followed Reimold with a solo homer for back-to-back longballs that proved to be all the offense Baltimore would need. The Orioles (7-4) managed just six hits on the night, but with those two longballs, the Orioles now lead the major leagues with 20 home runs, including six in two games in Chicago.
“I think anytime during the game, anybody one through nine (in the batting order) has the ability to hit the ball over the fence,” Reimold said. “We’ve been doing that a lot and it’s been helping us out a lot obvio0usly, I think we are going to be pretty solid up and down the lineup. We’ve got pop in the lineup up and down. Nobodys got a ton, it’s pretty evenly spread out.”
Midway through their three-city, 10-game road trip, the Orioles are 4-1.
“For us, we know what we’re capable of,” Hardy said. “We know it’s possible. The fact that we’ve all got out to a hot start in 11 games might be a little bit surprising, but if you say that somewhere throughout the season we’d have 20 home runs through an 11-game span, I don’t think that would be surprising. We’ve got off to a nice start and we just need to keep going.”
Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen -- a Taiwanese-born pitcher who signed with the Orioles this offseason after four seasons in Japan -- shut down the White Sox for most of his 5 1/3 innings to earn his first major league win.
"This is just like a dream come true,” Chen said through an interpreter. “This is my first win and it seems like this is a dream (since) I was in high school. It feels special. I can't say any words at all."
After the win, Chen received a shaving cream pie to the face from reliever Luis Ayala and was doused with blue Gatorade by pitcher Tommy Hunter.
“We made a couple loud noises with the bats and made it stand up, and he was the key to the game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He was effective. He came over with somewhat of a changeup, but really as a third pitch, and Rick and him have been working hard for a long time. Once you go through the order once or twice, you really need that third pitch to have some length to your outing. And that was key for him tonight."
After Robert Andino reached on a one-out single in the sixth, Reimold took a high 0-1 delivery from White Sox left-hander John Danks an estimated 384 feet over the left-center field fence to put the Orioles up 2-0.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy followed by taking a 2-0 Danks pitch an estimated 375 feet near the same spot at Reimold’s for a solo homer that gave Baltimore a 3-0 lead.
Chen made quick work of the White Sox – allowing just three singles through his first five innings – but ran into trouble in the sixth.
With two on and one out and Showalter on the phone to the bullpen, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski laced a two-run double down the right-field line to cut the lead to 3-2.
Two batters later, reliever Darren O’ Day came on for Chen with runners at the corners. After getting a popout to first from Dayan Viciedo, O’Day caught Alex Rios, the runner at first trying to steal second for the final out.
Chen, who threw 99 pitches (64 strikes), allowed just two earned runs on six hits, striking out four and walking two. Just as in his first start against the Yankees a week ago, Chen fell into trouble in the sixth. Against New York, he allowed three runs in the sixth.
“I feel like I'm really lucky tonight because compared to the last start, I didn't have good command,” Chen said through an interpreter. “I feel like the last start was pretty good. Today was not. It was so-so, so I feel like I'm lucky today. I think because it's the first time they faced me, so they don't know me much and today I'm still nervous, too. It's my second start."
But his bullpen backed him Tuesday night. O’Day also stranded a runner at third in the seventh, striking out Brent Morel after Alejandro De Aza’s two-out triple to right.
After left-hander Troy Patton retired left-handed hitter Adam Dunn to open the eighth, right-handed Luis Ayala induced a ground out to short from cleanup hitter Paul Konerko and then a Pierzynski line out to third.
Closer Jim Johnson got the last out with the bases loaded in the ninth, for his fifth save of the season and converted his 13th straight save opportunity.
Johnson issued a leadoff walk to Alex Rios, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Rios moved to third on a fielding error by Hardy at short, but pinch hitter Kosuke Fukudome lined his first offering to Wilson Betemit at third for the second out, but then walked De Aza to load the bases.
Brent Morel then ended the game with a short chopping ground out to third to end the game.
"They did a great job,” Chen said of the Orioles bullpen. “It's beautiful, it's nice. The men behind me support me a lot and I appreciate it."
Reimold also made two key defensive plays, a diving catch on Morel’s liner to shallow left-center in the first and a running grab of Gordon Beckham’s shot deep into the gap in the seventh.
"Nolan's always been a good defender,” Showalter said. “He can track a ball and really make up some ground that a lot of people can't once he gets underway. He and (first-base coach Wayne) Kirby have worked hard on his breaks and some stuff that he does and it's really good to see him get a return for it tonight because that was a big difference for us."
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