Against an eerily silent sea-of-green-chairs backdrop, the Chicago White Sox faced the Baltimore Orioles this afternoon at Camden Yards. With only players, coaches, press and scouts allowed in the game today, the ballpark served as a strange respite -- a peaceful playground in the center of a city in turmoil.
I was rrreally hoping Jeff Samardzija played nice today.
After owning the Sox with a 5-1 record last season, the Orioles seemed to pick up right where 2014 left off. While Ubaldo Jimenez stunned the Sox off the bat, Samardzija got into trouble early and often.
First, when the leadoff walk to Alejandro De Aza turned into a missed double-play opportunity (Abreu's throw to Ramirez was too high and off the bag for him to make the out), which morphed quickly into a five-run Orioles lead on four hits. Amidst that defense-led damage, Chris Davis launched a towering three-run homer to right field. Baltimore batters provided plenty opportunities to hear loud and clear, just how lovely the echoing thwack of a well-hit ball can be, when amplified by an empty park.
In the first flash of leather for the Sox, Avisail Garcia chased down and made a sliding catch on the right field line to log the second out for Smarge... but the Orioles kept coming. Before the half-inning ended, Samardzija had six runs on his hands, on six hits.
And that's why you don't walk the leadoff batter.
Across the first few innings, Sox bats were quieter than Section 381; and Scott Carroll was long warming by the time Samardzija hit the 50-pitch mark with no outs in the third. The first three Orioles batters reached base that inning on a mixture of singles and doubles, and a Caleb Joseph single brought in Manny Machado for the seventh Orioles' run -- just in time for the Sox "bats" to come up and go down 1-2-3 in the fourth.
Back on the bump in the fifth, Jimenez showed first signs of shakiness. After a near-perfect four innings of work (the exception being a Garcia single in the second), LaRoche walked, and Garcia singled again. Gillaspie flew out, but Alexei's grounder to the left side of the infield was lawn-darted to second by Machado, which moved the runners up to second and third. Geovany Soto grounded out to short, and in doing so, scored Garcia before the inning ended at 7-2 on a Micah Johnson groundout.
Machado homered in the inning's bottom half, thereby wiping out any damage his recent error had caused, and bringing his afternoon to three-for-three against Samardzija, with three runs scored. He wasn't the only Oriole giving Samardzija hell. Their five-thru-eight batters combined for eight out of ten hits charged to Smarge in his five innings of work.
Melky Cabrera threatened another Sox offensive pursuit in the sixth when he reached base on a one-out slow-roller past second baseman Rey Navarro. But the Orioles' concern was short-lived, as Abreu did the very last thing he should have done with his plate appearance, shy of dropping trou and kicking up some dust outside the batter's box... 5-4-3 inning-ending double-play. And ohh, how I longed to hear the crack off Abreu's bat magnified in the empty-park acoustics.
Carroll gave the Sox two solid innings on the bump, and only gave up a double to Adam Jones before being replaced by Carlos Rodon in the bottom of the eighth. Rodon's second major-league appearance was a game opportunity far more fitting of his greenness than the first, as he picked up a seemingly lost game and a six-run deficit... and retired all three batters he faced.
Sox bats failed once more in the ninth, and the Orioles gave Baltimore a little something to cheer about, with an 8-2 victory.
Orioles fans lined up outside the gates of Camden and created some distant sign-of-life-din. And they had plenty to cheer about.
The players' voices came through the broadcast remarkably clear. What was said on the field, was heard by all.
The Orioles announcers joked about how Hawk was "complaining" that he could hear them, so they planned to speak louder.
A television broadcasting another game (I believe) was turned on in the press box (I'm guessing) in the ninth inning, and turned off a couple minutes later.
Sirens were heard in the surrounding areas, and whenever a helicopter went over Camden, I could practically feel the vibrations of it in my couch.
"And that green jacket is well within reach, Jim." - Orioles announcer speaking in his whispery "Masters voice" and having some fun in the booth despite mixing in a great deal of discord surrounding the current state of Baltimore.
Last lowest attendance record was set in 1882 - six fans showed for the final game for both franchises, the Troy Trojans vs Worcester Ruby Legs.
The game was the shortest for the Sox this year, at *2:03. A combined four hits and nine strikeouts will do that. Good jorb, Sox offense.
And of course, in observance of one of the finest moments in recorded baseball-related audio, Happy Lee Elia Day, everyone.