The Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles each have crucial road sets with division rivals looming this weekend, though Thursday's series finale also is important for the playoff hopefuls.
AL Central-leading Chicago seeks a four-game split with Baltimore, which looks keep its hold on the league's second wild-card spot.
The White Sox won for only the second time in seven meetings with the Orioles after Wednesday's 8-1 rout at Camden Yards, scoring four runs in the first inning. Alexei Ramirez went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a pair of runs scored, and Dylan Axelrod earned the win with 7 1-3 solid innings.
Chicago (72-57), which dropped the first two of this set, increased its division lead over Detroit to three games ahead of a critical three-game series with the Tigers beginning Friday night."(I) put forth my best effort and (got) this team back on a winning track that hopefully carries into (Thursday) and into Detroit as well," Axelrod said before being optioned back to Double-A Birmingham.
Baltimore (71-58), meanwhile, had its hold on the league's second wild-card spot trimmed to one-half game over Tampa Bay with the defeat, and it remained 3 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading New York Yankees , who also lost Wednesday.
The Orioles, whose Nos. 2-4 hitters went 0 for 10, have three games at Yankee Stadium starting Friday.
The White Sox will look to win for the eighth time in 10 games with help from Jose Quintana , who has been a pleasant surprise in his rookie season.
Quintana (5-2, 2.86 ERA), though didn't have his best outing Saturday against Seattle, giving up three runs and walking four in 5 2-3 innings of Chicago's 5-4 win after going 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA over his previous three starts.
It also marked the first time the left-hander failed to pitch at least into the seventh inning in seven outings, though both catcher A.J. Pierzynski and manager Robin Ventura were ejected in the third inning for questioning umpire Lance Barrett's strike zone in that game.
"That's what teammates are for," Quintana told the team's official website. "A.J. and Robin coming out and sticking up for myself, for the team. I know things like that end up happening but I'm just glad they stood up."
Quintana will be opposed by Zach Britton , who has been pitching better of late.
Britton (3-1, 5.59) has been solid while winning his last two starts, tossing seven scoreless innings against Detroit on Aug. 18 and giving up two runs in 6 2-3 innings versus Toronto on Friday.
The left-hander has lowered his ERA nearly three runs over his last three outings.
"I would say (I am) a little more confident," Britton told the team's official website. "I feel good out on the mound. Right now I'm executing pitches a lot better. There's still some room for improvement, which is good."
Britton beat the White Sox in his only career start against them, giving up one run in six innings May 1, 2011.
Ventura said Pierzynski, mired in a 0-for-14 slump, will be back in the lineup after getting Wednesday off.
|Chicago White Sox|
|August 27, 2012||Gavin Floyd||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|August 26, 2012||Gavin Floyd||Day-to-Day||Right elbow discomfort|
|August 25, 2012||Dayan Viciedo||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder soreness|
|August 19, 2012||Kevin Youkilis||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|August 18, 2012||Alejandro De Aza||15-Day DL||Bruised left ribcage|
|August 16, 2012||Orlando Hudson||15-Day DL||Left foot contusion|
|August 22, 2012||Matt Wieters||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder contusion|
|August 13, 2012||Troy Patton||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|August 12, 2012||Wilson Betemit||15-Day DL||Sore right wrist|
|August 02, 2012||Ryan Flaherty||15-Day DL||Bacterial infection|
|August 02, 2012||Ryan Flaherty||15-Day DL||Bacterial infection|
|July 28, 2012||Jim Thome||15-Day DL||Herniated disc|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Zach Britton made an ample contribution to the Baltimore Orioles ' pennant drive, striking out a career-high 10 over eight innings in a win over the Chicago White Sox.
Then, as his teammates prepared to take a train to New York for a huge series against the Yankees, Britton packed his bags for a drive to Norfolk, home of Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate.
He won't be gone for long.
Britton's stellar pitching performance, along with home runs by Taylor Teagarden and Adam Jones , carried the Orioles to a 5-3 victory Thursday.
Baltimore took three of four from the AL Central-leading White Sox to complete a 5-1 homestand that started with a two-game sweep of Toronto. The Orioles now stand within three games of the idle AL East-leading Yankees, who will be trying to retain that margin in the three-game series that begins Friday night.
"Trust me, this group is going to have fun with it," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles head north with a suitcase full of momentum.
"It's nice to take this one to New York," said Britton, who was optioned to Norfolk after the game to make room for left-hander Randy Wolf , signed Thursday after being cut by Milwaukee last week.
Britton (4-1) gave up one run, seven hits and did not issue a walk. He fanned Dewayne Wise three times and eclipsed his previous single-game career high of seven strikeouts by the fifth inning.
"I think Zach will be back," Showalter said, adding, "Zach was hiding from me tonight."
The Orioles can't wait for his return.
"If he can go out and give you eight innings with no walks, he's going to be hard to beat," Jones said. "That was the most impressive I've seen him."
Britton allowed hits to five of the first nine batters he faced, but finished by retiring 19 of 21.
After Pedro Strop surrendered two singles in the ninth, Jim Johnson got an out, then gave up a two-run single to Alexei Ramirez before striking out Gordon Beckham for his 41st save.
The game drew a crowd of 10,141, smallest of the season at Camden Yards. There should be substantially more fans in the stands at Yankee Stadium.
"Our guys aren't going up there to experience the atmosphere," Showalter said. "They're going to try to compete with the team we're trying to catch."
Ramirez went 7 for 13 with five RBIs in the series, but the White Sox finished 2-6 against Baltimore this season. Chicago next travels to Detroit for a showdown between the top two teams in the AL Central.
"You've got to go in there and put this series behind us and hopefully go into Detroit and play well," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "The Orioles are playing well right now. They have a confidence about them, especially at home. We're out of here now and we have to worry about Detroit."
Rookie Jose Quintana (5-3) allowed five runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings, matching the shortest outing of his career. He entered with an 0.88 ERA in day games and was 3-0 with a 3.34 ERA in nine road starts.
His downfall came in the second, when he gave up five straight extra-base hits.
"They got to him in that inning," manager Robin Ventura said. "Everything was kind of up and kind of the same speed, really. They can hit, and they got him."
Teagarden, the backup catcher behind Matt Wieters , came in batting .086 (3 for 35). In addition to his third-inning home run, he also doubled in a run in the fourth.
Chicago wasted a double by newcomer Jose Lopez in the first inning, then scored only one run on four hits in the second. After Pierzynski was thrown out at the plate by Jones trying to score from second on a single to center by Ramirez, Beckham hit a two-out RBI single before Wise struck out with runners on the corners.
Quintana opened by getting eight straight outs before Teagarden hit an opposite-field drive to right, the first of five straight two-out extra-base hits by the Orioles. Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy followed with doubles and Jones hit his career-high 26th home run before Mark Reynolds capped the surge with a double.
Baltimore made it 5-1 in the fourth when Nate McLouth singled and Teagarden doubled to center.
NOTES: The White Sox purchased the contract of Lopez from Triple-A Charlotte, placed C Tyler Flowers on the paternity list, purchased the contract of C Hector Gimenez from Charlotte, moved RHP Brian Bruney (hip) to the 60-day DL and released RHP Gregory Infante . ... Four of Teagarden's five hits this season are for extra bases - two homers and two doubles. ... Orioles DH Nick Johnson , who went on the DL in late June with a wrist injury, is likely done for the season, Showalter said. ... Chicago outhit Baltimore 10-8. The Orioles improved to 18-48 when getting outhit.