CHICAGO — Even though Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen fell behind early to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, there was no question Baltimore’s lineup could quickly take control of the game.
They have relied on the homer for much of this season, but recently that power had combined with strong starting pitching — and the Orioles have become a second-half juggernaut.
In a span of three batters, the Orioles’ quick-strike offense turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. They hit three homers off White Sox starter Hector Noesi — including Nelson Cruz’s career-high tying 33rd home run of the season, a two-run go-ahead shot in the fourth — for a 4-3 win over Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field that included a majority of Orioles fans.
With their fourth straight win, the Orioles (73-52) completed their first sweep of the White Sox in Chicago in 19 years, when they won four games here on July 6-9, 1995.
Baltimore now leads the American League East by nine games over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays, their largest division lead since they were 9½ games up on the Yankees on Sept. 6, 1997.
The Orioles also won their 39th road game this season, the most in the AL. In their last 17 road games — in which the Orioles are 12-5 — the Baltimore pitching staff owns a 2.37 ERA. The Orioles’ rotation owns a 2.82 ERA in that span.
Cruz, Steve Pearce and Adam Jones all homered for the Orioles, who lead the majors with 161 homers. The Orioles outscored Chicago 17-5 in their three contests on the South Side.
Chen (13-4) earned his career-high 13th win of the season, allowing just three runs on six hits over 71 / 3 innings in recording his sixth win in his last seven decisions. Chen has gone seven or more innings in four of his last five starts.
The Orioles are a major league-best 31-13 since June 30, and the Orioles’ starting rotation has allowed three runs or fewer in 37 of those 44 games (84 percent). The entire staff is pitching to a 2.87 ERA over that span.
Chen recovered nicely after allowing a two-run homer to White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia in the first inning. Chen retired the next 10 Chicago batters before yielding a leadoff double to Paul Konerko in the fifth.
Chen maintained a 3-2 lead, stranding Konerko at third that inning after inducing back-to-back ground-ball outs to Pearce at first and striking out No. 9 hitter Leury Garcia to end the frame.
Within three batters in the fourth inning, the Orioles went from down two to up one, backed by homers by Pearce and Cruz.
Trailing 2-0, Pearce sent the first pitch of the fourth inning into the left field stands for his 13th homer of the season. Pearce, now essentially in an every-day role with third baseman Manny Machado injured and Chris Davis filling in at third, has posted six extra-base hits (four doubles, two homers) over his last four games.
After Jones followed with an infield single, Cruz turned on a letter-high 0-1 fastball from Noesi and sent it into the left field stands for his second homer of the season, giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
Cruz’s 33rd homer of the season equaled his career high set in 2009 with the Rangers.
Jones put the Orioles up 4-2 on an opposite-field blast to lead off the sixth inning for his 24th homer of the season.
The White Sox (59-68) cut the lead to one on Garcia’s sacrifice fly, but Chen still recorded his fourth quality start in his last five outings. Chen has allowed three runs or less in seven of his last eight outings.
He needed some help from right-hander Darren O’Day, who entered the game with two on and one out in the eight. But O’Day struck out both Jose Abreu and Garcia to escape the jam. O’Day has allowed just one run over his last 24 appearances, pitching to a 0.33 ERA in the last 27 innings.
— Baltimore Sun