BALTIMORE - The Orioles seemed like they were on their way to another improbable comeback, a win that would have made it four in a row to start this critical homestand.
Instead, it ended with a baserunning blunder that cost Baltimore a chance at stealing another victory from Chicago. The White Sox held on to beat the Orioles 4-2 and spoil a possible four-game sweep for Baltimore, which continued to struggle with runners in scoring position.
A crowd of 32,042 at Camden Yards exited without much noise despite the Orioles (76-66) loading the bases with no outs in the ninth inning. Sox closer Addison Reed, who blew a save Saturday thanks to a walk-off, two-run single from Matt Wieters in the 10th, was beginning to unravel once again with a 4-1 lead.
Reed got one out on a run-scoring fielder's choice, and Baltimore manager Buck Showalter inserted Chris Dickerson as a pinch-runner at first with Nick Markakis at third. Dickerson tried to steal second with Brian Roberts at the plate, and Roberts popped out in foul territory behind first base.
One problem for the Orioles - Dickerson never came back to first, and was doubled up to end the game.
White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez got a little credit from both Dickerson and Showalter for faking out Dickerson at second, letting him think the ball was coming toward the base when in reality second baseman Leury Garcia was ranging into foul ground to catch it.
"All I had to do was just get a good jump," Dickerson said. "I had the base stolen and the tying run is on second and everybody is happy. But I didn't peek and it ended up in the one place where you're not going to get that awareness reaction from the infielders, especially Ramirez with the deke.
"That pretty much got me. I assumed there was a ground ball hit behind me and he was going to first because I was already there."
Perhaps Dickerson's gaffe wasn't the biggest issue of the game, however.
The Orioles were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, and finished the four-game series at 3 for 37. They're 5 for 56 over their last six games, but Showalter said he doesn't look at those numbers.
"You all can," he said. "I understand it's one of the many stats that come out of a baseball game in a baseball season. I look at how well their guys ... pitched. I think that was the difference. That's just me personally."
Showalter was referring to Chicago starter Andre Rienzo, who improved to 2-1 in just his seventh career start. Rienzo pitched 6 2-3 innings and fanned four, allowing a solo home run to Adam Jones in the fourth inning.
Jones' 31st homer of the season cut Chicago's lead to 2-1, but the White Sox (57-85) extended it in the fifth thanks to a mammoth two-run blast from Adam Dunn. The slugger's 31st homer of the year landed on Eutaw Street, and it put Orioles starter Bud Norris (10-11) in a 4-1 hole.
Norris failed to make it out of the fifth and allowed nine hits against six strikeouts.
"They definitely made me work," said Norris, who threw 100 pitches. "I definitely had to battle some counts. I felt OK out there, definitely wanted to keep extending innings and so forth. One really bad pitch. Like I said, I can't take it back now, but I'm definitely going to re-think the one to Dunn."
Baltimore finished its season series against Chicago, and won it 4-3, but from here on out it's AL East opponents starting with New York on Monday. The Yankees come to town for four games to close out the homestand, and it's another important series for the Orioles.
Jones said he's not one to check the scoreboard unless it's football. His manager agreed and pointed to the series against the Yankees as the here and now with a wild-card berth at stake.
"We've got a very tough foe coming in here and tough behind that and behind that and behind that," Showalter said. "That's what this is. Every day is another challenge to getting closer. We crept back within a game. We'll take another pop at it tomorrow."