Written by Mike Laws
Second City blues
Late homers too much for O’s in opener
Orioles 2, Chicago White Sox 5
Even lovable teams sometimes deliver forgettable games. Sometimes, even all the momentum’s not enough.
And so it was that at a time when spirits probably hadn’t been any higher — a sweep of the Yankees just tucked under their belts, the news that starting-pitching help is on the way — the Orioles ran into the White Sox’ John Danks on one of the southpaw’s crafty-best evenings.
And you kinda knew it wasn’t gonna be a Baltimore-flavored affair in the third, when the Birds appeared to have Danks on the ropes but just couldn’t come through with the coup de grace. Maybe they just needed to keep first-ball swinging. After all, that’s how Brian Roberts — welcome back, by the way! — had delivered his first home run of the year, jumping on the first offering he saw and sending it out (from the RH side) over the left-field wall at (ugh) U.S. Cellular Field; Nick Markakis and Manny Machado followed with quick-trigger singles of their own, both likewise to left, Nick’s a slapped inside-out flare and Manny’s a ripped rope off a hanging breaking ball; in fact it was a shame that was all the youngster could do with it, rather than finding a gap for yet another double. Anyway, J.J. Hardy then found himself up in the count 2-0 — but flied out harmlessly to right. And Adam Jones, whom Danks also started out with a ball, lined out, ending the threat. D’oh!
Wouldn’t you know it, from there Danks cruised. A one-two-three fourth, an easy fifth in which only Markakis could scratch out a two-out single, a nine-pitch sixth, another two-out single (but nothing else) in the seventh — it appeared the O’s had missed their chance, against the lefty. Meanwhile, Jason Hammel, though he’d continued to show signs of improvement — particularly with his fastball command, as well as with the sharpness of his off-speed stuff — simply wasn’t up to Danks’s level, on the night. It took awhile — the big righty stranded a one-out double in the first, a pair of base hits in the second, a two-out single in the third — but eventually the White Sox got to the Oriole starter, combining a one-out Conor Gillaspie walk and consecutive singles (Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham) in the fourth, the latter of them plating the tie run, before Hammel came back with a big strikeout (he’d wind up with seven total) to limit the damage to just the one.
Hammel bounced back in the fifth with his calm-and-quietest frame of the night — his only one-two-three inning — but fell victim to a solo shot of the Sox’ own, in the sixth (Gillaspie, blast him) and came apart in the seventh. With one out he plunked Alejandro De Aza. His very next offering went for an Alexei Ramirez single, moving De Aza around to third. Ramirez stole second. Alexis Rios bounced down to Manny Machado, at third, who appeared to consider coming home before changing his mind and applying the tag to the coming Ramirez (or, well, trying to — the slippery Chicago shortstop slammed on the brakes and scampered back toward second, then repeated the maneuver there, and eventually got put out while sliding back in to third, all of which effort allowed Rios to make it into scoring position). But none of which wound up mattering when Adam Dunn did, well, all he ever does, clubbing Hammel’s 2-2 delivery deep into the South Side night and breaking this thing open at now 5-1.
The Birds didn’t go down without the ol’ college try, but that was just too much of a deficit — particularly when Hardy grounded into a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play after Markakis singled and Machado walked to lead off the eighth, though Jones came through with a two-out bounder back through the box and into center, plating ’Kakes. A fine inning from Kevin Gausman followed, if you were looking for bright spots, and Nate McLouth stroked a pinch-hit double to delay the inevitable, in the ninth, but that was to be the death-rattle, against Chicago closer Addison Reed, who fanned Roberts to finish this thing off. 5-2, White Sox, is the sad final.
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