BALTIMORE - It may still be early September, but the Baltimore Orioles know they can't afford to lose many more games. And they certainly can't drop many more series.
After a 3-6 road trip where they fell in series against the Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians, the Orioles returned home Thursday to open a series against the Chicago White Sox.
Thanks to a stellar outing from Miguel Gonzalez and a trio of solo home runs, Baltimore was able to begin its eight-game homestand with a 3-1 win before 17,383 at Camden Yards.
"You need a win," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "It doesn't matter how it comes, when it comes. It's September. The only thing that matters at this point in time is wins, catching the teams ahead of us, but not worrying about them, just taking care of what we can handle."
And the Orioles did that Thursday.
Jones got Baltimore (74-65) off to a good start with a solo homer to left-center in the bottom of the first off Chicago starter Jose Quintana (7-6). It was his 30th homer and his 100th RBI.
"You play the game for team success, but also individual success comes with that. I think it's a testament to the guys ahead of me," Jones said. "I share it with my team. I can't do it by myself."
The other two solo shots came in the fifth when the Orioles needed them. With the game tied 1-1, J.J Hardy smacked his 25th homer to left to put Baltimore up 2-1.
Three batters later, Brian Roberts hit his fourth homer of the year to left, giving the Orioles a 3-1 lead they didn't relinquish.
"He kind of left them over the plate and the guys got their arms extended on them," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Hardy's homer made him the fourth active player and ninth player since 1901 to have three or more seasons of 25 home runs as a shortstop.
"Like I've said 100 times, I didn't know how good he was," Showalter said. "I've kind of run out of things to describe him. I think everybody knows what we think of him. He's so consistent. You know what you're getting from him every day."
The Orioles have scored all 10 of their runs over the last three games on home runs, as well as their last 14 runs overall.
After struggling in several of his most recent outings, Gonzalez gave the Orioles a dominant outing against the White Sox (56-83).
The Baltimore right-hander gave up just one run on four hits over seven innings, and picked up his first win since July 20.
"There's times when you're going to have good games, and there are times you're going to have tough games," Gonzalez said. "My split finger was a lot better than my other outings, I think that was important for myself."
Gonzalez got into just one jam, which came in the third inning. He gave up a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases with none out in the third.
But then he got Alejandro De Aza to ground into a double play, holding the White Sox to just one run in the inning.
Showalter said he felt Gonzalez's confidence was a big reason for his success.
"I thought he was commanding the ball down in the zone consistently. A lot of counts in his favor," Showalter said. "It was kind of like he was on a mission tonight. A little driven. I think it was a reminder to us of how good Miggy's pitched for us the last two years, and there's some good things left in there."
Jim Johnson worked the ninth inning, retiring the side in order and picking up his 42nd save.
Now that the Orioles have won the first game against Chicago, which sits last in the AL Central, they are hoping Thursday's win will build some momentum for their playoff push.
"It's definitely a good way to start the homestand," Hardy said. "Our backs are kind of against the wall and we need to win. We need to get on a streak, and this is a good start."