Nate McLouth and Lew Ford added their names to the Baltimore Orioles’ rapidly expanding list of unlikely heroes.
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McLouth put Baltimore ahead with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, Ford also connected, and the Orioles beat the White Sox 4-3 on Monday night, ending Chicago’s six-game winning streak.
It was the franchise-record 13th consecutive one-run win for the Orioles, who trailed 2-1 in the sixth and 3-2 in the eighth. Baltimore is 24-6 in one-run games and 45-18 in games decided by one or two runs.
”This is as good of a club as I’ve ever had about staying in the moment,” said manager Buck Showalter, now 173-173 since being hired on Aug. 3, 2010. ”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.”
It’s hard to fathom what the Orioles (70-57) have accomplished this year following 14 straight losing seasons. It’s also difficult to imagine players like McLouth and Ford making major contributions in an important win. They were teammates with Triple-A Norfolk a month ago, and now they’re providing Baltimore with a playoff push.
”That’s why they got us up here,” said Ford, whose second-inning homer was his first in the majors since July 29, 2007, with Minnesota against Cleveland. After that season, Ford didn’t return to the big leagues until being summoned by the Orioles in late July.
After the White Sox went up 3-2 in the eighth against Pedro Strop (5-2) on a run-scoring infield single by Adam Dunn, Baltimore answered in the bottom half against Brett Myers (2-2).
Mark Reynolds drew a one-out walk and McLouth drove a 1-0 pitch far over the wall in right-center. It was his third RBI of the game and second home run since the Orioles purchased his contract from Norfolk on Aug. 4.
”I sure didn’t want it to go straight over the plate, which is where it went,” Myers said of the ill-fated fastball. ”I wish I could have that one pitch back, but you know that isn’t going to happen.”
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.”
Jim Johnson pitched the ninth for his 40th save in 43 opportunities.
Facing the Orioles for the first time with Chicago after tormenting them as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning and singled in the eighth to set up Dunn’s RBI hit. Youkilis has a lifetime .322 batting average against Baltimore, with 23 homers and 87 RBI.
”You never want to lose a game like that,” Youkilis said. ”We had the lead and Nate hit that home run.”
The duel between the first-place White Sox and the surprising Orioles — who moved within 3 1/2 games of first-place New York in the AL East and stayed in the midst of the wild-card race — attracted a meager crowd of 10,955 on a clear night at Camden Yards.
Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen gave up two runs, one earned, and four hits in six innings. He struck out eight, including A.J. Pierzynski three times.
Down 1-0, Chicago took the lead in the sixth. After Chen dropped a throw to first base for an error, Youkilis homered on the next pitch.
Baltimore pulled even in the bottom half. A walk to Matt Wieters and a single by Ford put runners at the corners with no outs and prompted White Sox manager Robin Ventura to replace starter Francisco Liriano with Jesse Crain, who walked Reynolds and McLouth to force in a run. Crain then got Manny Machado to hit into a force at the plate, struck out Robert Andino and retired Nick Markakis on a slow roller to shortstop.
It was another missed opportunity for the Orioles, who had several in the early going.
In the first inning, Markakis was tagged out by Liriano while trying to score from third on a pitch that bounced away from Pierzynski and rolled to the right of the plate.
After Ford hit an opposite-field drive to right leading off the second, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out before Markakis lined into a double play.
NOTES: White Sox RHP Gavin Floyd had a MRI on his right elbow Monday in Chicago. Ventura said no damage was found, but Floyd was scratched from Friday’s start against Detroit in favor of Jake Peavy, who was slated to pitch Wednesday. Dylan Axelrod will pitch Wednesday. … The Orioles optioned Jake Arrieta to Norfolk to make room for LHP Joe Saunders, obtained Sunday in a trade with Arizona. Saunders will make his first start either Wednesday or Thursday, Showalter said. … RHP Jason Hammel (knee) threw a simulated three-inning game at Camden Yards. He will next make a rehabilitation start on Sept. 1 and could rejoin the team on Sept. 6, Showalter said. … Baltimore’s Adam Jones went 0 for 4 and is homerless in 108 at-bats, tying the longest drought of his career.