White Sox' Pitching Gives O's Bats Silent Treatment

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 14, 2005

CHICAGO, May 13 -- The offense ended immediately after the last out in the fourth, a deep drive to right field by Rafael Palmeiro that soared high into the dark Chicago sky but was caught just inches in front of the wall. From then on, no Baltimore Oriole reached base or threatened again in a 5-3 loss to the White Sox on Friday night.

For Baltimore, there were no broken-bat hits, no four-pitch walks, no ways to get another man on base. Instead, Palmeiro's drive served as a reminder that Baltimore's offense, though dangerous, is not impervious to good pitching. White Sox pitchers retired the final 16 hitters.

"We didn't do anything after that [fourth inning]," Baltimore Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "We couldn't hit. We couldn't get anyone on."

In the first two games of the series, both losses, Baltimore has failed to get more than two hits in an inning. They had five total hits on Friday. Both White Sox starters have pitched eight innings and, in both games, Dustin Hermanson threw a scoreless ninth. White Sox starter Mark Buehrle retired the final 13 batters he faced on Friday.

"He didn't really have a pattern," Palmeiro said. "He threw everything on the corners."

The game fell apart for Baltimore in the seventh inning. The White Sox' most glaring weakness is in the middle of the batting order. Their fourth and fifth hitters, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye, entered the game hitting under .200. Chicago as a team was ranked only ninth in the American League in runs and batting average prior to Friday's game. But Konerko's broken-bat, two-RBI single in the seventh against reliever Todd Williams gave the White Sox the deciding runs of the game.

On an 0-2 count, Williams said he tried to put the ball low and inside against Konerko. Instead, Williams threw the ball in the middle of the plate. Konerko lofted the ball over second base.

"I think I can say this is one of the biggest wins we have had all year," White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen said. "The way we came back like we did feels good and it makes you want to come back tomorrow and play again. I'd rather be lucky than good. To stay healthy is lucky and sometimes having luck is better than being good."

Both runs were unearned because Palmeiro's error had extended the inning. With a runner on second base, Tadahito Iguchi hit a soft liner to Palmeiro. The first baseman charged the ball, which then seemed to sink, according to Palmeiro. The ball bounced off the ground then off his chest, putting men on first and third with no outs.

"It wasn't really a ground ball, it was more of a line drive," Palmeiro said. "I tried to catch it in the air, but he must have hit it off the plate or something because the ball dove on me. All I could do was try to keep it in front of me. My first reaction was to catch it in the air. It was one of those things were you don't have time to think, you have to react."

Buehrle, the ace of the heralded White Sox staff, pitches effectively and quickly. An at-bat sometimes may last less than a minute. He throws a pitch, then only moments after receiving the ball from the catcher, throws another pitch. Two of Buehrle's starts this year have lasted less than two hours. His win over the Seattle Mariners on April 16 was clocked at 1 hour 36 minutes, the quickest game in the majors since 1984.

"I think for the most part, guys don't mind that," Palmeiro said of Buehrle's quick pace.

This game was not nearly as fast, mostly because of Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez, who allowed a runner in every inning yet managed to avoid major trouble until the seventh. Lopez surrendered a run in the sixth and appeared tired as he walked off the mound after facing six hitters that inning.

The Orioles went in order quickly against Buehrle in the top of the seventh, forcing Lopez back to the mound without much time for rest. Lopez immediately allowed a double to right-center field.

"I think I should have thrown more change-ups to keep hitters out in front," Lopez said.

The Orioles scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning on an RBI single by B.J. Surhoff and a two-run double by Chris Gomez. Baltimore came close to adding two more runs in the inning when Palmeiro sent his drive to deep right field. But Dye caught the ball near the wall. Palmeiro, as he rounded first base, yelled in frustration.

"I hit it good enough," said Palmeiro, who homered in Thursday's series opener. "I hit it better than the one [Thursday] night."

The Orioles did not hit another one as well again.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company