CHICAGO -- Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles walked to the plate in the ninth inning in a possible bunt situation. Tie score, runners on first and second, nobody out. He was prepared to drop one down, if asked.
But, he said, "I was hoping [Orioles manager Phil Regan] would let me swing away."
Hoiles swung away, and mashed a three-run homer, to beat Jim Abbott and the White Sox last night, 5-2.
Hoiles, who has slumped for most of this season, was one of three unlikely heroes. Left-hander Rick Krivda, making his major-league debut, pitched 5 2/3 solid innings, and Leo Gomez tied the game at 2 in the seventh with his first RBI since June 4.
"I feel a lot better," said Hoiles, who has eight hits in 16 at-bats over his last six games and has raised his average from .171 to .199. "I'm swinging the bat a lot better, with a lot more confidence."
Regan said, "That was a big at-bat for Chris Hoiles."
A big at-bat for the Orioles, who are now four games under .500, at 31-35.
Kevin Bass singled to lead off the ninth inning against Abbott. The Chicago left-hander threw two high pitches to Jeffrey Hammonds, and even then, there were no right-handers warming up in the White Sox bullpen. This was, apparently, Abbott's game to win or lose.
Hammonds walked, bringing Hoiles to the plate, a frightening proposition for the tiring Abbott. Heading into last night, Hoiles was batting .636 in his career against the left-hander, 14 hits in 22 at-bats with two doubles and two homers. Because there was no right-hander warming up, there was no right-hander to rescue Abbott from this precarious situation.
Hoiles said, "I was kind of surprised they didn't have anybody warming up."
Abbott tried slipping a curveball past the Orioles catcher. Hoiles mashed it, over the center-field wall, just beyond the reach of center fielder Lance Johnson, the ninth homer of the year for Hoiles. Terry Clark got the win in relief, Doug Jones picked up his 14th save, and Krivda earned raves.
"He had a good fastball," Regan said, "and he had a great changeup. He did exactly what we wanted him to do."
The Orioles had promoted Krivda to specifically face the White Sox, 5-13 against lefty starters this season. When Regan met with Krivda about three hours before the game, he encouraged him to pitch the way he felt most comfortable. Don't try pitching to Frank Thomas' weaknesses. Just pitch to your strengths.
And, Regan added, have fun.
Krivda had a blast, mixing his average fastball and his curveball and changeup to keep the White Sox off balance all night. (Having trouble against rookies is nothing new for Chicago lately. On Tuesday, the Yankees' Mariano Rivera struck out 11 White Sox and gave up just two hits over eight innings. Only once did a Chicago runner advance as second base).
Krivda gave up a hit an inning through the first five innings, never really getting into any trouble, and he got more than his usual share of strikeouts. At Triple-A Rochester, he had 58 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings, but last night, he whiffed seven White Sox in 5 2/3 innings.
He zapped Tim Raines and Robin Ventura in the first. Struck out Ray Durham in the the second. Got Mike Devereaux in the fourth.
It wasn't necessarily that the White Sox had never seen anything like Rick Krivda, another in a long line of crafty left-handers. It's just that they'd never seen Rick Krivda.
In the sixth, the White Sox finally got to him. Thomas walked to lead off the inning -- Krivda isn't stupid -- and Ventura singled through the first-base hole. John Kruk struck out, but Devereaux slammed a highdrive into the right-center field gap. Orioles center fielder Curtis Goodwin sprinted to try to reach the ball, but it fell against the wall, and both runners scored, giving the White Sox a 2-1 lead.
Krivda struck out Durham again, and Regan emerged from the dugout and called for right-hander Armando Benitez. As he reached Krivda, he gave him a little extra pat on the back. Krivda may be sent back to Triple-A Rochester next week, but he made a point: Just two runs in 5 2/3 innings. Impressive.
The Orioles had taken a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Gomez singled, moved to second on Goodwin's sacrifice bunt, moved to third on Brady Anderson's infield hit, and scored when Manny Alexander made sure he hit a grounder to the right side.
But Regan thought he should've had a 3-0 lead at that point.
After Cal Ripken singled to start the second inning, Kevin Bass pulled a high fly down the left-field line and into the stands . . . foul, according to third base base umpire Mike Reilly.
Orioles third base coach Steve Boros immediately challenged Reilly, and Regan rushed out of the dugout and took up the fight, screaming at Reilly to get a second opinion from
home plate umpire Dale Ford. The fans sitting in the stands were no help: Some pointed foul, others waved fair. The replay appeared to show the ball go fair.
However, Ford sided with Reilly, and Regan yelled at both umpires adamantly for several minutes before retreating to the dugout. Bass flied out to right, and the inning ended when Hoiles hit into a double play.
The Orioles tied the score in the top of the seventh. Hammonds hit a grounder to short, where Craig Grebeck was giving a night off to the reliable Ozzie Guillen. Grebeck isn't quite as reliable; he bobbled the ball and Hammonds reached on the error.
The White Sox made another mistake, after Hoiles flied out. Hammonds broke for second, and Abbott threw to first. Hammonds would've been out at second had Thomas made a good throw, but he didn't, and Hammonds was safe.
Chicago shifted its infield against Gomez, playing him as if he would pull the ball severely. But Gomez hit a roller up the middle, and Hammonds scored easily from second. Tie game.
But Chris Hoiles changed that.
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (8-5, 4.58) vs. White Sox's Jason Bere (4-6, 5.19)