BALTIMORE (AP)—The Baltimore Orioles were on the brink of losing yet another close game to the Chicago White Sox when the unimaginable happened: Down by a run in the ninth inning, they rallied to beat All-Star closer Bobby Jenks.
Javy Lopez’s bases-loaded single capped a two-run ninth, and the Orioles averted a three-game sweep with an 8-7 victory Sunday.
Baltimore lost the opener Friday night on a ninth-inning grand slam by Ross Gload, then dropped a 13-11 decision on Saturday. The Orioles put themselves in position for another defeat Sunday when Todd Williams yielded a three-run homer to Jermaine Dye in the eighth, but this time Baltimore turned it around.
“A game like that keeps everybody happy. We get our groove back where we were,” Lopez said. “And of course, they’re battling for the wild card, so a game like this can hurt them.”
Before Sunday, Baltimore was 2-51 when trailing in the ninth inning. Chicago was 51-1 when taking a lead into the ninth.
Bidding for his third save in the series, Jenks got the first out in the ninth before hitting Miguel Tejada with a pitch. Jay Gibbons followed with a single for his fourth hit, tying a career high, to move Tejada to third.
Jenks (2-3) had converted 19 straight save opportunities and was an AL-best 28-for-29 (96.6 percent) this season.
“He’s been so great for us all year. When he blows one, it’s a major thing,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
Playing in his second game since returning from a lengthy stay on the disabled list, Gibbons went 4-for-4 with a homer and a walk. Tejada, the subject of trade speculation as Monday’s deadline draws near, drove in two runs.
“I’m fine here,” Tejada said afterward. “I can say I want to leave, but that’s not what I got on my mind. I always say I want to stay here. I like it here.”
Eddy Rodriguez (1-1), called up from Triple-A Ottawa before the game, worked the ninth for the win.
Dye had five RBIs, a two-run single in the sixth and the homer that gave Chicago a short-lived 7-6 lead. Paul Konerko also homered, and Pierzynski had three hits.
With Baltimore up 6-4 in the eighth, Orioles reliever Tim Byrdak got two outs, then gave up a single to Pierzynski. Williams came in and walked Konerko after getting ahead in the count 1-2, and Dye followed with his 28th homer.
But the lead wouldn’t last.
“Obviously, our bullpen struggled today,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said after the White Sox blew leads of 1-0, 4-2 and 7-6.
With the score 2-all in the sixth, Tadahito Iguchi and Pierzynski hit successive one-out singles off Bruce Chen, subbing for injured starter Kris Benson. Konerko advanced the runners with a deep fly to center against Chris Britton before Dye grounded a single up the middle.
The Orioles took a 5-4 lead against Javier Vazquez in the bottom half. After Gibbons hit a leadoff homer—his 11th of the season and first since May 16— Vazquez hit Patterson with a pitch and gave up a single to Lopez. Nick Markakis then hit Neal Cotts’ first pitch for an RBI single, and Brandon Fahey doubled in the go-ahead run.
A sacrifice fly by Conine made it 6-4 in the seventh. For the third time in three games, the Orioles let a lead get away. This time, however, they came back.
“It was a good day, even better how we finished,” Gibbons said. “It was looking bleak there with Jenks coming in.”
Chicago opened the game with three straight singles, the last one by Pierzynski to drive in a run.
After Tejada hit RBI grounders in the first and third to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead, Konerko tied it in the fourth with his 26th homer on a 3-2 pitch. It was the team-high 23rd home run allowed by Chen in 76 innings.
Pierzynski went 10-for-13 in the series to raise his batting average 18 points to .319. … Markakis was 7-for-12 in the three games. … Before the game, Baltimore activated Byrdak from the 60-day disabled list, optioned RHP James Johnson to Double-A Bowie, recalled Rodriguez and placed LaTroy Hawkins on the bereavement list.