The White Sox ended their five-game losing streak (eight games on the road), but you knew it wasn't going to be easy.
It could've been easier. The offense turned 16 total baserunners (11 hits, four walks, one HBP) into four runs -- and the last one required a miracle slide by Alexei Ramirez to touch the plate.
Jose Quintana struck out eight over seven strong innings, giving the bullpen the opportunity to allow two runs over two innings and still win the game, yet Ronald Belisario still brought the game-winning run to the plate with just one out in the ninth.
But Belisario, after a low throw spoiled a chance at a 1-4-3 double play earlier in the inning, got Ryan Flaherty to ground into a 4-6-3 one to end the game. Maybe everybody can breathe a little easier now.
The Sox controlled this one from the start, as Gordon Beckham took Miguel Gonzalez deep for a 1-0 lead two batters into the game. Alejandro De Aza tacked on another run in the second with an RBI single, but the Sox cuted themselves out of the inning when De Aza was thrown out at home on a Little League double steal attempt.
That play was more indicative of the way the Sox offense functioned the rest of the game. Tyler Flowers delivered an RBI single in the fourth, but a Beckham groundout with the bases loaded foiled their shot at a crooked number. And still, one run looked downright enviable when the Sox blew a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the fifth after Ramirez popped out and Dayan Viciedo bounced into a double play.
While the offense blew chances to blow the game open, Quintana remained in control, putting down a few mild threats over the course of the game. His fastball command was excellent early -- he threw heaters about 70 percent of the time through the first five innings, which allowed him to use more breaking stuff when the Orioles threatened over the final two innings.
That came in handy, because the Orioles started to square him up in the sixth. Steve Pearce took the first pitch of the inning just inside the left-field foul pole for a solo shot, cutting the Sox' lead to 3-1. Adam Jones then went the other way with a changeup for a double, and suddenly Baltimore had the tying run at the plate in the form of Nelson Cruz, who is second on the AL home run leaderboard (corrected).
Quintana got ahead with two curveballs, but Cruz worked the count full by watching curve in the dirt, a high fastball and an outside fastball. Cruz thought Quintana had one more fastball in him, but Quintana threw a beautiful outside-corner changeup that Cruz swung over for the first out of the inning. That gave Quintana a big first out, and he retired the next two batters on a strikeout and lineout to limit the damage.
That quick turnaround gave him enough gas to pitch the seventh, and he toughed that one out, too. He gave up a leadoff single, and a wild pitch (on a blockable changeup) took away the double play. But Quintana got Jonathan Schoop to ground out, but a walk to Caleb Joseph brought Don Cooper to the mound. He probably told him that the left-handed Nick Markakis was his last batter, and Quintana made Markakis the inning's last batter by getting an easy 4-6-3 double play to preserve the lead.
With Quintana due to exit the game, the Sox offense realized it needed a bigger cushion. So Ramirez led off with a single, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on the second infield-in grounder off the inning. The contact play wasn't on for Viciedo's groundout to short, but when De Aza hit a chopper to second, Ramirez broke for him. The throw beat him, and Joseph put the tag down ... but then he brought it back up as Ramirez's scissor-kick slide delayed his arrival. He snuck his foot in before Joseph's second tag attempt, and a great call by Alan Porter didn't even need to be reviewed.
Of course, the Sox bullpen explored the breathing room. In the eighth, Jake Petricka walked the leadoff man Pearce and fell behind the second hitter 2-0. Out came Cooper, and three pitches later, Jones hit a grounder to the left side. Ramirez made a nice backhand stab and flung it to Beckham in one motion, who made a quick transfer as Pearce took out his legs and turned a slick 6-4-3 double play.
Petricka then retired Cruz on a groundout, which allowed Robin Ventura to use Scott Downs to start the ninth against Chris Davis.
That didn't matter. Davis' flared liner off the end of the bat went in and out of a leaping Beckham's glove, and with righties due up, in came Belisario. His night started with a chopper back to the mound, but his low throw to second made it tough for Beckham to turn two -- and he couldn't. Sure enough, Belisario then gave up a pair of carbon-copy singles to Manny Machado and Delmon Young (2-0 count, fastball strike one, grooved fastball strike two put into play) to narrow the gap to 4-2.
Buck Showalter called for Flaherty to pinch-hit for Joseph as Cooper came out to the mound once again. Cooper had it working tonight, because five pitches later, Belisario walked off the mound with a save after Flaherty hit into the Orioles' fourth and final double play of the game, and the third after a Cooper visit.
*The Sox went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position ... but the Orioles went 1-for-9 themselves.
*The Sox grounded into three double plays, but again, one better than the Orioles.