By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun
1:19 AM EDT, April 17, 2012
His throwing arm wrapped in a huge bag of ice, he and his Orioles teammates taken through a roller coaster of a night, catcher Matt Wieters put it perfectly.
“This year nothing’s really come easy so far,” he said.
On a night when the Orioles nearly gift-wrapped a win to the White Sox on a chilly Chicago night at U.S. Cellular Field, frustration and elation merged within a matter of innings.
The Orioles went into the eighth inning down three runs, unable to give starter Jake Arrieta the run support he deserved while committing three errors in the field.
Credit a late-inning power surge that forced extra innings, and then a six-run 10th-inning outburst that included Wieters’ first career grand slam — one of four Baltimore long balls, all after the seventh inning — to give the Orioles a 10-4 comeback win over the White Sox.
“We’ve had close games late and we’ve had to tie some games up and go extras and we’ve had some extra-inning losses, so it’s been a lot of hard work so far this year,” Wieters said. “It’s sort of like a snowball effect. Once you get some runs going and maybe you quit squeezing the bat as tight it seems to, [it] always comes a little bit easier.”
The Orioles, who began the game 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, forced extra innings with solo homers by Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones in the ninth off White Sox closer Hector Santiago. Wieters also hit a solo shot in the eighth off reliever Jesse Crain.
“A couple years ago, we were down 4-2 on the road, we were probably losing 4-2,” said Jones, who hit his fourth homer of the season. “It’s a different team; we’re a different breed right now. We are just enjoying taking one game at a time and not do anything else but play our style of baseball.”
Chris Davis’ run-scoring double off White Sox reliever Zach Stewart, which hit just below the top of the left-field fence, gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead in the 10th. Davis’ hit was just the Orioles’ second in their past 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“There's so much want-to there,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You can look for a breaking ball or a changeup because you know they're going to try to use your aggressiveness and your want-to against you. But we've got to keep in mind they have to be strikes, too. It's such a fine line, trying not to cross over between their wanting it so bad.”
But from then, the Orioles opened the flood gates.
After Davis’ run-scoring double, the Orioles tallied three straight singles, including another run-scoring hit by Reimold — a late-inning substitution in the seventh — that scored Davis. With the bases loaded, Wieters then took an 84 mph full-count slider over the right-field fence for a grand slam, essentially emptying U.S. Cellular Field long before the final out.
“When we started hitting home runs, it was like, ‘Is this about to happen?’” Davis said. “But it’s one of those things. With our team, it’s not a selfish effort. We’re going to stand up for one another. We’re going to have each other’s back and we’re going to keep battling until our last out, and that’s what we did. This is a young team, but we have some veteran guys mixed in who have been around a little bit. I think you see that energy from the young guys. I think you saw that play out tonight.”
The Orioles, who outhit Chicago 15-8, had more than enough opportunities to break open their series opener with the White Sox in the early innings Monday night.
The Birds worked Chicago starter Philip Humber into a high pitch count early. They had the bases loaded in both the third and fourth innings, but managed just one run in those innings. The Orioles struck out 15 times and committed three defensive errors.
Arrieta, making his third start of the season, worked deep into the game but didn’t get much support. Paul Konerko’s two-run double in the sixth — which came after a Davis fielding error — off Arrieta gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead.
Arrieta tied a career-high with 114 pitches, lasting 6 2/3 innings and allowing four runs — only two were earned — on seven hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. Arrieta, who left down 4-1, watched from the clubhouse as the Orioles rallied to tie the game and eventually win.
“He threw the crap out of the ball. We had some opportunities to put some runs on the board early and were unsuccessful,” Jones said. “We kept chipping away and he kept us in the game. As a starting pitcher that’s all we ask. Just kept us in the game and kept us close.”
Gold Glove catcher Wieters, who made just five errors all of last season, made two of the Orioles’ three errors Monday, skipping two throws into center field on runners trying to steal second.
The Orioles loaded the bases in the third and fourth innings, but scored just one run.
The Orioles rallied in the eighth — an inning that featured Wieters’ third homer of the season — against Crain, but they stranded two more runners. Reynolds drew a two-out walk, followed by a single by Davis, but Crain struck out Andino looking.
Reimold, who entered the game in the seventh, hit his third ninth-inning homer in as many games.
“We had a couple errors, a couple miscues on defense and had to face a few more hitters than necessary, but they picked me up and that's what good teams have to do,” Arrieta said. “We're going to make errors on defense just like everybody else in the league, but it speaks highly of our offense being able to put that behind us and really come out and continue to swing the bats well. The six runs in the 10th really speaks very highly for those guys.”
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