BALTIMORE — After all that frustration and debate, the Orioles didn’t provide that much of a conflict with the NFL on Thursday night.
On a much anticipated evening that featured the Ravens opening their Super Bowl defending season on the road in Denver because the Orioles had a previously scheduled game at Camden Yards, Baltimore’s baseball team made quick work of the Chicago White Sox, 3-1, and was in the clubhouse before the first quarter in Colorado ended.
Baltimore sports fans can give thanks for a 34-minute lightning delay in Denver and Miguel Gonzalez’s sharpest performance since June — a one-run, four-hit gem.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for Gonzalez (9-7), who turned in the worst outing of his season last week in New York, or for the Orioles (74-65), who are running out of time in their pursuit of a playoff berth.
The game lasted a crisp 2 hours and 34 minutes and was played before an announced 17,383, the smallest crowd at Camden Yards since June 10.
And the night’s attendance pushed the Orioles over two million fans for the second consecutive season after four consecutive years drawing under two million.
More than half stayed until the end to see Jim Johnson throw a perfect ninth and pick up his 42nd save of the season.
One of the keys to the club’s late-season success in 2012, Gonzalez was almost never in trouble against the White Sox (56-83). Only once did he allow more than one base runner in an inning — the third when he escaped a bases-loaded jam.
He struck out six — his most since Aug. 7 — and lasted seven innings. It was only the second time he has done that in his past 11 starts.
And although the Orioles’ struggling offense didn’t exactly break out, it did what it does best: Homer more than any other team in the majors.
Adam Jones gave the Orioles the lead in the first inning when he went deep to left against Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana.
It was Jones’s 30th home run and 100th RBI of the season. Jones had never driven in 100 runs in his career. He and teammate Chris Davis are the first pair of Orioles to hit the 100-RBI mark in the same season since Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora in 2008.
The White Sox tied it in the third when Gonzalez allowed a blooper, a well-placed single and a walk to load the bases. He then induced Alejandro De Aza to hit into a double play that tied the game at 1-1. Gonzalez got another ground out to end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Orioles used the longball against Quintana (7-6), who had allowed just three homers in his past seven starts. On Thursday, Quintana served up three — all solo shots, including two in the fifth.
J.J. Hardy led off the fifth inning with his 25th home run of the season, making him the ninth shortstop since 1901 to have at least three 25-homer seasons.
With two outs in the inning, Brian Roberts homered, his fourth of the season and first since Aug. 23.
The Orioles have 188 home runs this season.
It masked the Orioles’ difficulty with runners in scoring position — they were 0-for-4 in those situations.
But it also snapped their two-game losing streak at a time when they need to pick up victories to stay in the American League playoff hunt.
— Baltimore Sun