Floyd struggles as Orioles drop Sox

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Floyd struggles as Orioles drop Sox

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."

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

What White Sox 'fireman' Anthony Swarzak has done to increase trade value

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Anthony Swarzak held a high-leverage audition for a potential contender on Sunday long before the Kansas City Royals walked off the White Sox.

The nonroster invitee to big league camp continued a stellar campaign as he took over in a critical spot midgame and helped the White Sox escape with the lead. The White Sox bullpen ultimately relinquished the lead and Brandon Moss sent them to their ninth straight loss — Kansas City won 5-4 — with an RBI double in the ninth inning.

But Swarzak continues to thrive in the opportunities handed to him and could make for an interesting trade chip before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

“He’s been excellent,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s become for us, with (Nate Jones) going down and (Jake Petricka) going down he’s actually become a fireman. He’s come in in some of the highest-leverage situations we could possibly get. And then we use him for multiple innings.”

A free agent after the season, Swarzak has 50 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA in 47 innings for the White Sox this season. He also has only allowed nine of 33 inherited runners to score (27.2 percent), including two on Sunday. The American League average for inherited runners scoring entering Sunday was 30 percent, according to baseball-reference.com.

All this has come in a season where Swarzak went to camp with the White Sox with no certainty of making the 25-man roster. The right-hander not only thrived in camp, he came out strong in April with 19 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season. Combined with early injuries to Jones and Zach Putnam, Swarzak’s performance helped him climb the totem pole in the White Sox bullpen from the outset. His stature has grown even more of late with the injury to Petricka as well as the trades of Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson.

“As far personal expectations, I’m right where I want to be,” Swarzak said. “More to accomplish for this year, absolutely. But I like what I’ve done so far and I like the opportunity that I have to accomplish even more.

“That’s the situation we all work so hard. That’s the situation we want and it’s why we all work so hard in the offseason in general is for situations like that.”

Swarzak took over for starter Derek Holland in the fifth inning with the White Sox ahead 4-3 and runners on the corners. He threw three straight sliders to Jorge Bonifacio and struck him out to strand the pair.

“It was huge, what he did coming in right there,” Holland said.

As significant as it was, it only held off the Royals for the time being. And as much as Swarzak has enjoyed things on a personal level, it isn’t making what the thinned-out White Sox roster is experiencing any easier to handle.

“Everything going on around here right now is pretty hard to swallow,” Swarzak said. “We’re going out there losing 8-0, 6-0, we’re up 6-0 and we end up losing. We lost a 1-0 game against the Dodgers and the next night we lose 10-1. We’re kind of losing all types of ways right now, which is really hard to swallow because as a bullpen guy we take pride in holding the lead and right now it seems like we’re not getting it done at all, any aspect of it, as a group.”

With eight more shopping days left before the deadline, chances are high that Swarzak may not be part of the current group much longer. He has already seen the departures of Robertson and Kahnle and knows his impending free agency could result in a trade elsewhere. But the veteran reliever is doing his best to keep his focus on the mound.

“It all comes back to quality pitches and getting guys out,” Swarzak said. “If you’re getting guys out, you’re going to get some attention from the league and if you’re not they’re going to close the book on you. It’s very straight forward for a pitcher, for a major league baseball player in general: Do better. Get it done and you’re going to play for a long time and you’re going to have the success that goes along with getting it done. That’s really all I’m worried about is continuing to make good pitches and hopefully get the results I’m looking for.”

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

White Sox: The big-picture reasoning behind Rick Renteria and bunting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Rick Renteria wants his players to be able to execute a bunt regardless of how much it drives White Sox fans crazy.

The White Sox manager wants to win now, but he’s also looking at the big picture.

Even though he knows how much a team’s chance of scoring decreases when an out is surrendered via the sacrifice bunt, Renteria is using the opportunity to see what abilities his players have. He wants to know what they can do.

Renteria is well aware that his calls for sacrifice bunts aren’t popular with fans (see: Twitter’s reaction to Yoan Moncada’s bunt tries on Saturday). But he also thinks there’s no better time to work on bunts than during a game. So as much fury as it brings, Renteria will continue to ask his players to work on a skill he’d like to see remain part of the game.

“Listen, (Moncada’s) a plus runner,” Renteria said. “He’s going to be able to use that as a part of his arsenal. I see a whole lot of home run hitters dropping bunts right now against shifts and things of that nature. I don’t think that art should disappear. We’re in the era of quote-unquote the long ball, but like I’ve said, sometimes you need to do certain things to kind of put your club in a better position.

"If you think that’s one of the things that’s available to you, you use it. I don’t think you’re necessarily giving it up in terms of an out, because when you’ve got guys who can run anything is possible. You end up loading the bases possibly. I know our guys are very cognizant of just playing the game. If they feel like they want to get two guys in scoring position on their own, they do it. It’s not something I want to take away from them. I think they read the defenses. Sometimes we talk about other ways of dealing with the defenses, but I think they’re understanding that we’re going to want that to be a part of all their abilities.”

As for the team’s execution, Renteria isn’t satisfied with the results. That means you can expect to see more bunts the rest of the way.

“It’s still a work-in-progress,” Renteria said. “I think that would be a falsehood to say we’re at the point where I go, I’m very, very happy with the way we lay down bunts. It’s still a work-in-progress, something that we’re going to continue to emphasize. Something we’re going to continue to work on. And then again, the only opportunities you get in real time are games, and that’s when you need ‘em.”