Get one solid starting pitching performance. Mix in two homers against Chris Sale. Throw in one potential game-saving catch. And then add a late five-run rally to blown open a one-run game.
Where to start with this impressive 8-2 Orioles win over the Chicago White Sox to start a three-game series?
Bud Norris took a one-hitter and 3-0 lead to the last of the seventh, but he almost left that half-inning trailing. Avisail Garcia’s two-out, two-run single made it a 3-2 game.
The next batter, Conor Gillaspie, crushed a pitch to deep right. Nick Markakis ran back, leaped at the wall and took what looked like a sure two-run homer away from the White Sox third baseman. It was merely a spectacular catch that kept the O’s in the lead.
Norris went seven innings, allowing three hits and the two runs. He did not walk a batter, fanned five and is now 11-7 with an ERA of 3.69. Norris, who faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings, threw just 84 pitches and the O’s are 13-8 when he starts.
This is the first time all year that Sale gave up two homers in a game. He has allowed nine all year (three to the Orioles), and had given up just one homer in his last seven games over 51 2/3 innings.
Sale has allowed five runs and 19 hits in 12 innings against the Orioles this year. They are batting .373 (19-for-51) against him.
The Orioles are 10-5 this year when they face a starting pitcher currently in the American League’s top 10 in ERA.
J.J. Hardy led off the second inning hitting a solo homer to left on a 94 mph fastball. It was Hardy’s seventh homer and the Orioles led 1-0. It became 2-0 in the fifth as Markakis singled and scored on a Steve Pearce double.
Nelson Cruz led off the sixth with a homer to left for a 3-0 lead. He hit an 85 mph changeup for No. 32 a 1-2 pitch. He needs one more homer to tie his career-high from 2009.
But the White Sox rally made this a close game until the Orioles scored five runs in the eighth to blow it open. Jonathan Schoop delivered a booming three-run double and then scored on Markakis’ two-run homer. It quickly went from a tense game to a blowout.
The five-run eighth matches the Orioles entire run output for three games over the weekend in Cleveland.
The Orioles improved to 71-52 for the season and now own a major league-best 29-13 mark since June 30. They have won nine of their last 10 series openers and lead the AL with 37 road wins.
In the second game of the series on Tuesday night, Chris Tillman (9-5, 3.68 ERA) faces left-hander Jose Quintana (6-9, 3.14 ERA).