Note: Because of a production error, some editions of yesterday's Sun included an incomplete story about Thursday's Orioles-White Sox game. A full version of the article is reprinted here.
CHICAGO --A four-game series that started at U.S. Cellular Field with so much hope and optimism ended Thursday night with the Orioles skipping town as a battered team.
The Orioles were quick to point out that they had the tying run at the plate in the ninth inning in each of the past two games here against the reigning world champions. However, manager Sam Perlozzo bemoaned the poor starting pitching, after Erik Bedard's two-hit gem Monday, that put his club in that position.
The Orioles gave Russ Ortiz an early three-run lead but watched it get wiped away in a matter of a couple of swings. Designated hitter Jim Thome belted two of Chicago's four homers, including a third-inning grand slam off Ortiz, and tied a career high with six RBIs in the White Sox's 11-8 victory over the Orioles in front of 35,266 at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Quite honestly, a couple of our starters need to get better," Perlozzo said. "You can't get that far behind and expect to come back."
It was the sixth loss in eight games for the Orioles (39-48), who fell to a season-high nine games under .500. Late Thursday night, they packed their bags and headed to Cleveland where they will close out a frustrating first half with a three-game series against the Indians.
"The thing is we lost the last three games, but one thing you look at is [Thursday night and Wednesday night], we were one swing away from tying the game," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "Guys are fighting their tails off right now."
Trailing by six heading into the ninth, the Orioles scored three runs and brought Corey Patterson to the plate with two on and two outs. But White Sox lefty Matt Thornton struck out Patterson looking to end the game.
The White Sox (56-29) broke open a 7-5 game with back-to-back homers in the seventh, both off struggling reliever Todd Williams. Jermaine Dye hit the first, lining a three-run shot into the left-field bleachers. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was named to the All-Star team earlier in the day, beating out Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez among others, then lined a bases-empty shot to right.
Before Chicago's massive display of power had launched, the momentum of another Orioles loss appeared to change on two defensive plays, one that Miguel Tejada didn't make and one that the White Sox did.
The Orioles had already taken a three-run lead in the third inning when White Sox center fielder Brian Anderson sprinted toward the right-center-field gap and denied Hernandez of an RBI extra-base hit. In the bottom half of the inning, Ortiz appeared on his way to getting his second out as Juan Uribe bounced a routine grounder to Tejada, who fielded it cleanly.
His throw, however, sailed high, forcing Millar off the bag. Four batters later, Thome pounded Ortiz's 3-1 pitch well over the center-field wall. Ortiz said the error didn't bother him, but he had retired six of seven White Sox to that point.
"You are supposed to be able to make a couple of mistakes and get away with it," Perlozzo said. "You have to be able to pitch through that."
Tejada could barely watch the events that followed his 12th error of the season in the third. When Scott Podsednik singled to load the bases with one out, Tejada put his hands on his hips and stared dejectedly in the crowd. When Ortiz walked Alex Cintron after being ahead 1-2 to force in Chicago's first run, Tejada's head sunk.
When Thome's shot bounced over the first row of shrubs, 447 feet away, setting off fireworks over U.S. Cellular Field, Tejada turned around, his back to home plate, as Thome circled the bases. Ortiz, meanwhile, smacked his glove, knowing that in a span of about 10 minutes, a 3-0 Orioles lead had become a 5-3 deficit.
"He's a monster," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko of Thome, who was 2-for-15 against Ortiz coming in. "It's just unbelievable what the guy can do. If he's swinging the bat well and you throw it over the plate, he's going to hit it out."
In the fourth, Ortiz allowed a 403-foot two-run blast by Thome, his 29th, tying David Ortiz for the major league lead and giving the White Sox a 7-3 advantage. Combined, Thome's two homers traveled 850 feet.
"Except for Jim Thome's two at-bats, I felt great," Russ Ortiz said. "I just happened to put the ball a little on the plate."
Ortiz (0-1) was removed after the fifth. He gave up seven runs (six earned), eight hits and walked two, while making 93 pitches.