Both managers probably left in their starting pitchers one batter too late.
In what summarizes the Orioles’ misfortune right now, Rick Renteria got away with it, and Buck Showalter did not. Matt Davidson sent Alec Asher packing with a grand slam that broke open the game and knocked Baltimore below .500 with a sixth straight loss.
The “low fuel” sign was flashing for Asher well before Davidson came to the plate, because he loaded the bases on a single, HBP and walk. Showalter only had lefty Richard Bleier warming, though, and so he hoped Asher could get through Davidson before gaining a matchup advantage over Omar Narvaez.
Davidson, however, seemed to be tracking Asher well all along. They locked into a 2-2 count, but both Davidson’s takes and swings were confident. In fact, he ripped the fifth pitch of the at-bat down the left-field line into the seats. Asher located that fastball in off the plate, so Davidson couldn’t keep it fair even though he barreled it up.
When Asher came inside two pitches later, he left it over the inside half, and Davidson guided it inside the left field foul pole and over the White Sox bullpen for the grand slam. That gave the White Sox a 6-1 lead, and that held up.
Derek Holland also gave up hard contact at the very end of his night, but he was able to escape with the win. The top of the sixth started with a Trey Mancini laser to right center for a double. Holland induced a first-pitch popout from Jonathan Schoop on a high curve, but when he left a hanging changeup to Welington Castillo, Beef Castle got more of the bat on it. He just didn’t get enough elevation, and Melky Cabrera flagged it down with a leaping catch on the warning track.
Up came righty J.J. Hardy, and out came Renteria — but only to talk to Holland, not to replace him. Holland got ahead 0-2, but Hardy worked it back to 2-2 before hitting a hard liner to right. Fortunately, it was right at Avisail Garcia, who caught it with little effort to take the 2-1 lead to the bottom of the inning.
Holland’s night ended on a fitting note, as he dodged his share of bullets over six innings. He courted a third consecutive disaster start when Joey Rickard started the game by doubling on an 0-2 pitch. Manny Machado then drove home Rickard with a rope that short-hopped the left-field wall, but it was only an RBI single because Cabrera played it well and gunned down Machado at second.
Holland didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning, but he posted five zeroes afterward. He stranded two runners with a pair of strikeouts in the third inning, stranded two more with a strikeout in the fourth, then left runners on the corners by getting a popout and a double play in the fifth. The Orioles were just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and one of those hits only advanced a runner to third.
The White Sox’ run prevention unit allowed the offense to catch up. The Sox couldn’t get a hit off Asher until the fourth inning, but three straight hits — singles by Cabrera and Jose Abreu, a two-run double by Garcia, all to left center — led to two runs and a 2-1 lead. Garcia and Davidson came up with the big blows tonight, but Abreu kept the line moving better than anybody, collecting three of the Sox’ eight hits and scoring a pair of runs.
Once Davidson’s slam created breathing room, the White Sox bullpen allowed everybody at Guaranteed Rate Field to relax. Anthony Swarzak pitched around a leadoff single for a scoreless seventh, and Tommy Kahnle and Chris Beck retired the last six batters between them.