CHICAGO — Wrigley Field is known as the “Friendly Confines,” but the Baltimore Orioles have seen their share of challenges after playing two games there this weekend on Chicago’s North Side.
The Orioles endured a 3-hour, 9-minute rain delay Saturday in a game that included a heavy fog over the first two innings. And while this Orioles club has overcome its share of adversity — including losses of catcher Matt Wieters and now third baseman Manny Machado for the year — over the course of the season, they have stumbled against a Cubs team out of the playoff race but motivated by pride.
Baltimore has put together a remarkable run of eight straight series wins before heading out on its nine-game road trip, but the Orioles’ 7-2 loss to the Cubs in front of an announced 37,156 ensured that they’d lose two of the three series on the trip.
They still lead the American League East by seven games over the New York Yankees and eight over the Toronto Blue Jays and own baseball’s best record since June 30, going 31-15 in that span. But after sweeping a three-game series against the White Sox on Chicago’s South Side, the Orioles (73-54) have scored just three runs in two games at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in their first trip here since 2008.
Not only will the Orioles attempt to avoid their first sweep since losing three to Detroit in mid-May, but also their first losing streak of three games or more since dropping four straight in Milwaukee and Houston on May 27-30.
The Cubs (57-72), meanwhile, won their first series since taking two of three from the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 5-7.
“We’ve been in those shoes, too,” Manager Buck Showalter said. “They’re a good, solid aggressive bunch and they’re trying to establish themselves in their organization. They’ve got a lot of good young players. . . . Their intensity level is always going to be good. They’ve got a lot of things to establish and prove, as we do.”
Once play resumed following Baltimore’s longest delay this season, the Orioles managed just two hits against the Cubs’ bullpen over seven innings.
“We didn’t swing the bats particularly well, and they pitched well,” said Orioles catcher Nick Hundley, who had one of the Orioles’ hits after the delay. “That happens sometimes. If it rains earlier or it rains later, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Unfortunately they got after us pretty good, and it’ll be a challenge to go out there tomorrow and try to win.”
Before the skies opened up with heavy rain, Baltimore right-hander Bud Norris labored through a four-run second inning that was capped by Chris Coghlan’s bases-loaded, three-run triple. With the Orioles leading 2-1, Norris worked a full count to Coghlan before hanging an 88-mph pitch high in the zone that Coghlan sent into the right field corner, clearing the bases and giving the Cubs the lead.
“It’s tough,” Norris said. “We grind every pitch, every pitch, and to have him put a good swing on that pitch, it hurt me and us pretty big today, unfortunately. I’ve got to get better.”
Showalter said he knew Norris wasn’t returning about 30 minutes into the delay because he said Wrigley Field has no indoor mounds where Norris would stay warm.
“He threw 30-some pitches in the second inning, so unless there was a real short delay he wouldn’t have gone back out there,” Showalter said. “But we had no place to keep him warm or throw anyway because the facility just doesn’t allow it like other parks.”
— Baltimore Sun