A lackluster road trip didn't help the Baltimore Orioles ' playoff hopes but a visit from the scuffling Chicago White Sox might.
The Orioles will try to keep the White Sox winless on their lengthy trek in Thursday night's opener of a four-game series.
Baltimore (73-65) finished 3-6 on its trip after losing its final two games against fellow AL wild card contender Cleveland. Manny Machado hit a three-run homer in Wednesday's finale but the Orioles couldn't overcome an early four-run deficit in a 6-4 loss.
"It was a tough road trip because we did some things well, but not as consistently well as we needed them to be," manager Buck Showalter said.
The defeat pushed Baltimore one-half game behind the Indians and four games behind Tampa Bay in a competitive field for the AL's final playoff berth. Only three games separate the four teams that have a serious chance to catch the Rays.
"We know everybody is trying to make the playoffs at this point," Machado said. "But we're not in panic mode. I don't think we will be either."
Making the playoffs will be impossible if the Orioles don't improve their hitting with runners in scoring position. They batted .215 (14 for 65) in such situations on the trip, going 4 for 27 against the Indians.
The Orioles will try for some better results against one of the AL's worst clubs. The White Sox (56-82) dropped to 0-6 on their 10-game trip with a 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
Chicago trailed 6-1 after seven innings before nearly tying the game in the eighth.
"That's one thing I say about our team is we do fight to the end," captain Paul Konerko said. "We've had a lot of games that looked just like that this year where we were down four, five runs and we fight back, we just can't finish it off."
The White Sox are batting .219 during their trek and Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (8-7, 4.11 ERA) is hoping this matchup will help him bounce back from one of the worst start of his career.
Gonzalez was tagged for seven runs over four-plus innings in an 8-5 loss to the Yankees on Friday.
"He pitched as well as you'd want, but couldn't get over the hump," Showalter said. "Miguel has pitched well this year and he'll get another chance."
In his first start against the White Sox, Gonzalez will pitch opposite Jose Quintana (7-5, 3.69), who should be well-rested for this outing. The left-hander made only 20 pitches before being lifted after a rain delay in a 9-1 loss to Yankees on Monday.
Quintana is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in two career starts against Baltimore, but he struck out a career-high 11 and gave up two hits over seven scoreless innings in a 3-2 win July 4.
That victory helped the White Sox take two of three from Baltimore in their only other meeting this season. The Orioles won three of four in the most recent matchup at Camden Yards from Aug. 27-30, 2012.
Baltimore's J.J. Hardy needs one more homer to become the ninth shortstop to hit 25 or more in at least three seasons since 1901. He's 3 for 33 (.091) in his last nine games against the White Sox and 1 for 5 all-time against Quintana.
|Chicago White Sox|
|September 02, 2013||Tyler Flowers||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|September 02, 2013||Tyler Flowers||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|August 20, 2013||Jeff Keppinger||Day-to-Day||Stiff lower back|
|August 16, 2013||Ramon Troncoso||15-Day DL||Pericarditis|
|August 15, 2013||Gordon Beckham||Day-to-Day||Strained right quad|
|August 05, 2013||Dayan Viciedo||Day-to-Day||Jammed left thumb|
|August 31, 2013||Eric Beaulac||60-Day DL||Torn labrum, right hip|
|August 28, 2013||Steve Pearce||15-Day DL||Left wrist inflammation|
|August 16, 2013||Francisco Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|July 29, 2013||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Right forearm tenderness|
|July 14, 2013||Nolan Reimold||60-Day DL||Nerve inflammation in cervical spine|
|June 21, 2013||Michael Morse||15-Day DL||Strained right quad|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Miguel Gonzalez was desperate for a win. So were the Baltimore Orioles .
Both got what they needed against the skidding Chicago White Sox.
Gonzalez allowed one run over seven innings and Baltimore got solo home runs from Adam Jones , J.J. Hardy and Brian Roberts in a 3-1 victory Thursday night.
The Orioles were coming off a 3-6 road trip that left them four games off the pace in the AL wild-card race. Although it's probably too early to talk about must-win games, this one was pretty close.
"It's definitely a good way to start the homestand," Hardy said. "Our backs are kind of against the wall and we need to win. We need to get on a streak, and this is a good start."
After losing series in Boston, New York and Cleveland, Baltimore was delighted to come home for a four-game series against the last-place White Sox.
"We need wins," Jones said. "That's all it's about. We need a win."
Jones' shot in the first inning gave him 30 home runs for the season and 100 RBIs for the first time. Hardy and Roberts connected in the fifth, increasing Baltimore's major league-leading home run total to 188.
"We didn't put together a ton of hits, but the way the pitching and defense was tonight, three was enough," Hardy said.
Gonzalez (9-7) gave up four hits - all singles - walked one and struck out six to earn his first win in seven starts since July 20. He was 0-4 in that span.
"It was a long time since I got a win," he said. "It was fun to be out there and be able to go a little bit deeper than in other games and getting a win that was important for us."
Tommy Hunter allowed a single in the eighth and Jim Johnson worked a perfect ninth for his 42nd save.
"They're all significant from here on out just because of the opportunities that are not there," manager Buck Showalter said. "If we take care of business, it will be an interesting last week of the season. You'll usually like the outcome if you just try to stay in the moment. It's difficult to do. It takes a lot of discipline."
Dayan Viciedo had two hits for the White Sox, who have dropped seven straight as they stagger to the conclusion of a losing season. Chicago is an AL-worst 24-49 on the road and 32-48 in games decided by one or two runs.
"We've played that type of game a lot this year and just couldn't score enough runs to win," said Paul Konerko , who went 0 for 4. "We try not to think about how other games have gone, but the end result is you can lump this in with the rest of them."
Jose Quintana (7-6) allowed seven hits in seven innings, but three of them were homers. The right-hander had allowed only four long balls in his previous 10 starts.
"He was all right," manager Robin Ventura said. "The three homers are the ones that got him, but other than that he was pretty sharp."
Down 1-0, the White Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the third but got only one run, on a double-play grounder by Alejandro De Aza.
"That was our spot," Ventura said. "I mean Gonzalez pitched well, really pitching from behind well. He spotted off-speed stuff and hit his counts. We got him in that situation, he gets a double play to really give himself a breather and get out of it."
Hardy put Baltimore in front for good in the fifth with a leadoff homer on a 2-2 pitch, and with two outs Roberts homered on a full count. Hardy's drive made him the ninth player since 1901 to have three seasons with at least 25 home runs as a shortstop.
NOTES: The Orioles activated RHP Jason Hammel (flexor strain) from the DL, recalled RHP Steve Johnson from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned LHP Zach Britton to Single-A Aberdeen. ... Chicago C Tyler Flowers underwent shoulder surgery Thursday to clean up his rotator cuff and labrum. No structural damage was found. Recovery time is approximately 2-3 months. ... Baltimore RF Nick Markakis did not start after going 6 for 36 on the road trip, but he entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. ... Scott Feldman starts for the Orioles on Friday night against John Danks (4-11), who earned one of his four wins this season against Baltimore on July 2. ... Ventura on being the spoiler: "There's no extra incentive that you're a spoiler but I think we do have guys that are looking toward next year, trying to do something just to get noticed or send a positive note out there." ... The crowd of 17,383 pushed attendance at Camden Yards over 2 million on the 68th home date.