A homestand that began with great promise ended with a thud Thursday, as the Orioles secured a series win with a 5-3 victory over the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. After kicking off the seven-game stretch on the South Side with a pair of wins against the front-running Tigers, the Sox dropped four of their next five, including three of four to the perennial basement-dwellers of the American League East.
Gavin Floyd labored through six innings, allowing five runs on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. The righty has now walked eight in 17 23 innings this season, although manager Robin Ventura isn't concerned with his high rate of free passes given his strikeout total is double his walk total.
"He strikes out a lot, too, so I think youre going to have a little bit of both," Ventura said after the game. "You want to cut those down, but he's still pitching fine."
Baltimore plated two runs right off the bat, with Adam Jones picking up the first of his three RBIs on a liner to right that Alex Rios played into a double. Nick Johnson followed that up with a groundout to bring home Baltimore's second run, representing the mustachioed DH's first RBI since May of 2010. The Orioles took the lead for good in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by J.J. Hardy and a two-run blast by Jones, his fifth home run of the season and second of the series.
"You want to keep the team in the game a little bit better," Floyd said. "I had an opportunity to -- you know, threw two there to Jones, I mean, with a base open, and hung probably one of the few breaking balls I did all day, and he hit it. Hes a good hitter. Hes hot right now. I probably should have kept that in mind better."
The Sox mounted a rally in the the third, tying the game on RBIs by Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. But the Sox could only muster two runs, as Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers both struck out with the bases loaded to end the White Sox threat. A ninth-inning rally also fell just shy, as the Sox loaded the bases with two out for Rios, who struck out looking to end the game.
Strikeouts continued to be an issue for the White Sox, who as as team whiffed 10 times in six innings against Orioles starter Jason Hammel. Those 10 strikeouts were a career-high for Hammel, who entered Thursday averaging about five strikeouts per nine innings since the start of the 2011 season.
"I made some good pitches," Hammel said. "I executed with two strikes. They're a very aggressive team, as well. They're going swing at bad stuff if you get ahead in the count. I think I exploited that today."
Dunn struck out to lead off the bottom of the fifth, with a smattering of boos greeting him as he trekked back to the dugout. The voiced displeasure probably wasn't deserved, though, as Dunn's strikeout broke a streak of reaching base on six consecutive plate appearances. He did strike out in his next at-bat, though, before delivering a key single in the ninth.
"I cant speak for everyone, I know me, I think Im being a little too selective and when Im getting myself in hitters counts they are making kind of pitchers pitches kind of things," Dunn said. "Im usually able to lay off and Im swinging at them."
Brent Lillibridge (3), Dayan Viciedo (3), Rios (3), Tyler Flowers (2) and Alejandro De Aza (2) all struck out multiple times as well, although Rios and De Aza each reached base twice. The Sox totaled 16 strikeouts in the game.
"I think some of them, you can put it down as maybe not having the right approach," Ventura said of the high strikeout total. "Some of them are just good pitches. It's going to happen. Other teams do strike out so it's maybe a little bit of both. You just try to learn from it and work on it and cut those down."
The problem certainly isn't confined to one or two players. Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham have 30 strikeouts between them, and neither player was in the starting lineup Thursday.
"Not everybody right now has the best feel they're going to have all year," Konerko explained. "No one's crazy besides A.J. Everybody's getting some hits here or there, but not locked.
"I think we'll get better with that as it goes on, especially the younger guys. Some of these guys have never faced these guys. It's just tough. The more they do, the better they'll be against them."
A much more encouraging trend also continued Thursday, with Flowers gunning down a pair of Orioles baserunners trying to steal second. Both Endy Chavez and Robert Andino were thrown out by the White Sox catcher, who is a perfect 4-4 in nailing would-be base-stealers this year. Combined with A.J. Pierzynski, Sox catchers have thrown all but one runner on seven opponent stolen base attempts this year.
The loss dropped the White Sox record against Baltimore to 20-25 since 2007. And while losing three of four to the Orioles isn't the best way to hit the road, the team is trying to stay positive early in the season.
"Other than the last four or five innings in Texas on the third night, we've either won been in every game up until the end. That's a good sign and I think that means guys are up there taking a lot of pride in their at-bats and the way they're going about it, and relievers are holding those games close when we are behind a few runs," Konerko said. "It's kind of as planned. You'd always like a 10-2 record after 12 games or something, but the way we're going about it, it's really good to see. We're doing it right and just have to keep trucking along."