White Sox 5, Orioles 1

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CHICAGO (AP)—Now this is the kind of offense the Chicago White Sox want to see.

Frank Thomas went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs, and Sandy Alomar Jr. sparked a two-out, four-run rally with an RBI single in the seventh inning as the White Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1 Wednesday night.

“We needed that,” said Thomas, who finished a triple shy of the cycle. “It was a big hit by Sandy. He’s been going through a little streak himself, so he wanted to break out himself. It was good for the team, and we gained momentum after that.”

After struggling the past month, the White Sox are starting to get on a roll. They’ve won three of their last four to pull within one game of .500, and they’ve clinched their first series win since the end of April.

And it’s about time, Alomar said.

“We have a way better team than we’ve shown on the field,” said Alomar, who was 2-for-4. “There’s reason for people to criticize us because we’re not that type of team. We have to play up to our level and we haven’t done that.”

Aside from Thomas’ two-out, solo homer in the first, Chicago couldn’t do much early against Rick Helling (2-4). He allowed six hits through the first six innings, and had a runner in scoring position only twice.

But Helling has a history of struggling against the White Sox—particularly in Chicago—and this game ended up being no different. No sooner had the Orioles tied the game on Jay Gibbons’ RBI single in the top of the seventh than he fell apart.

“A day like today is when it stinks to be a starting pitcher, because the first six innings means nothing,” Helling said. “I can care less how I threw in the first six innings.”

Helling’s meltdown started when he plunked leadoff hitter Paul Konerko in the rib cage with a two-strike pitch. Willie Harris ran for Konerko and went to second on Armando Rios’ sacrifice bunt. Helling retired Joe Crede on a popup for the second out, but Alomar lined the ball up the middle—just above Helling’s back—for an RBI single.

“That was a big hit by Sandy,” White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. “That kind of opened it up for us.”

D’Angelo Jimenez doubled to deep right, and that was it for Helling. B.J. Ryan relieved—and promptly gave up a two-run single to Valentin. Thomas capped the four-run inning with an RBI double off Rick Bauer.

Helling allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out five. He’s 0-4 with an 8.16 ERA in six starts in Chicago.

“You go away from this start with a really bad taste in your mouth,” Helling said. “It’s not like being a position player or anything else. You are just miserable for the next four days.”

But Helling didn’t get much help from his teammates, either. Dan Wright, making his second start of the year after spending the first month on the disabled list, scattered six hits and a run over 6 1-3 innings for Chicago.

Tom Gordon (2-2) gave up one hit in 1 2-3 innings, and Damaso Marte pitched a perfect ninth.

“We have a great bullpen,” said Wright, who had a strained ligament in his pitching elbow. “It’s fun handing the ball to Flash Gordon or anyone else because you know they’re going to get the job done.”

Wright did the job, too. After allowing a walk to start the game, he retired his next six batters. The Orioles didn’t have an extra-base hit until Jeff Conine’s ground-rule double to open the seventh.

Gibbons followed with a broken-bat single to right to tie the game and spoil Wright’s shot at a win. But he tried to stretch it into a double and was thrown out at second by Magglio Ordonez, spoiling Baltimore’s hopes for a rally.

“Four games ago we scored 14, and it just seems after that we got into trouble getting the key hits,” Gibbons said. “It’s just one of thosethings.”

Notes

Thomas’ homer was his eighth of the year. All have been solo shots. … The White Sox have homered in eight of their last 12 games. … Gary Matthews Jr. has hit safely in 18 of his last 25 games for Baltimore. … Gibbons hasnine RBIs in his last seven games.

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