White Sox-Orioles Preview
In a matchup of two of the AL's hottest teams, the Baltimore Orioles struck first.
Regardless of that outcome, there's no disputing which club has the advantage in the second game of this four-game set between playoff contenders.
Coming off their first loss in seven contests, the Chicago White Sox appear to be in good position to rebound with Chris Sale taking the mound Tuesday night against the Orioles.
After completing a perfect six-game homestand, the White Sox (71-56) hoped to continue their momentum in the opener of a seven-game trip Monday. They took a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth inning before Nate McLouth's two-run homer in the bottom half gave the Orioles a 4-3 victory.
Baltimore overcame a pair of one-run deficits in its franchise-record 13th consecutive one-run win.
"This is as good of a club as I've ever had about staying in the moment,'' manager Buck Showalter said. "That's a challenge when you are around so many things that aren't really realistic, to stay together and challenge the things that really are important.''
McLouth's second homer in five games continued an unlikely season for the Orioles, who also got a home run from Lew Ford - his first since July 29, 2007, with Minnesota.
Asked if he ever doubted something like this could happen after being released by Pittsburgh at the end of May, McLouth replied, "Maybe. I think that's probably fair to say. But I love playing baseball. The Orioles were gracious to give me an opportunity and I'm happy to be here. I'm excited. It's been fun so far.''
With its third straight win and 15th in 21 games, Baltimore (70-57) moved into a tie with Oakland for the top wild-card spot and pulled within 3 1/2 games of the East-leading Yankees.
A win Tuesday would put the Orioles 14 games over .500 for the first time since they were 42-28 on June 21, 2005.
Chicago, meanwhile, had its lead in the Central trimmed to two games over idle Detroit with its fourth straight road loss. Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer and is batting .333 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in his last 13 games at Camden Yards.
Sale (15-4, 2.65 ERA) was outstanding again in his most recent appearance, allowing only Derek Jeter's solo homer and two other hits while striking out 13 in 7 2-3 innings of a 2-1 victory over the Yankees on Wednesday.
The left-hander - among the major league wins leaders - agreed that his performance was perhaps the best of his young career.
"If it's not, it's up there for sure,'' Sale said. "That's one to build on. Just try to use it for my next outing.''
Sale has won 12 of his last 14 decisions and has struck out 36 in 29 innings spanning four August starts. He's 1-2 with a 6.30 ERA in his last three road outings, however.
This will be his first start versus the Orioles after posting a 5.06 ERA in six relief outings.
Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones went 0 for 4 in the opener and is homerless in 108 at-bats, tying the longest drought of his career.
Chris Tillman (6-2, 3.71) will be pitching on six days' rest after his scheduled start Sunday was postponed due to rain. After giving up nine runs over 10 1-3 innings in his previous two starts - both at home - the right-hander limited Texas to three runs and six hits while striking out seven over 6 2-3 of a 5-3 road win last Tuesday.
He's split two career starts against the White Sox, yielding six runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss on Aug. 11, 2011.
Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez is 4 for 5 with a homer off Tillman.