Baseball / Sports

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen works agaisnt the Chicago White Sox in the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. (Chris Sweda/ Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Wei-Yin Chen, three home runs power Orioles to 4-3 win over White Sox

CHICAGO -- Even though Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen fell behind early to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, there was no question the club's hitters could quickly take control of the game.

The Orioles have relied on the homer for much of this season, but recently that power has combined with strong starting pitching --and the club has become a second-half juggernaut.

Through a span of three batters, the Orioles' quick-strike offense turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. They hit three homers against White Sox starter Hector Noesi -- including Nelson Cruz's career-high-tying 33rd home run of the season, a two-run go-ahead shot in the fourth -- for a 4-3 win over Chicago in front of an announced 15,137 at U.S. Cellular Field that included a significant amount of Orioles fans.

With their fourth straight win, the Orioles (73-52) completed their first sweep of the White Sox on the road in 19 years, since taking all four games here on July 6-9, 1995. The Orioles had already won their ninth series in their last 10 with Tuesday's victory.

They now lead the American League East by nine games over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays, their largest division lead since they were 9 1/2 games up on the New York Yankees on Sept. 6, 1997.

The Orioles also won their 39th road game this season, the most in the AL. In their last 17 road games -- in which the Orioles are 12-5 -- the Orioles pitching staff has a 2.37 ERA. The club's rotation has a 2.82 ERA in that span.

Cruz, Steve Pearce and Adam Jones each hit a home run for the Orioles, who lead the major leagues with 161. The Orioles outscored Chicago, 17-6, in the three games this week.

Chen (13-4) earned his career-high 13th win of the season, allowing just three runs and six hits in 7 1/3 innings, recording his sixth win in his last seven decisions. Chen has pitched seven or more innings in four of his last five starts.

The Orioles are a majors-best 31-13 since June 30, and the club's starting rotation has allowed three runs or fewer in 37 of those 44 games (84 percent). The entire staff has a 2.87 ERA in that span.

Chen recovered nicely from allowing a two-run homer to White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia in the bottom of the first inning. After the home run, Chen retired the next 10 Chicago batters before giving up a leadoff double to Paul Konerko in the fifth.

Chen maintained the 3-2 lead, however, stranding Konerko at third base. He induced back-to-back groundouts to Pearce at first base before striking out No. 9 hitter Leury Garcia to end the inning.

Trailing, 2-0, Pearce sent the first pitch of the fourth inning into the left-field stands for his 13th homer of the season. Pearce, who is now essentially in an everyday role with Manny Machado injured and Chris Davis filling in at third base, has six extra-base hits (four doubles, two homers) in his last four games.

After Jones followed with an infield single, Cruz turned on a letters-high, 0-1 fastball from Noesi (7-9) and sent it into the left-field stands for his second homer of the series, giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead. Cruz's 33rd homer of the season equaled his career high, which he set in 2009 with the Texas Rangers.

Jones put the Orioles up, 4-2, on an opposite-field solo blast to lead off the sixth inning for his 24th homer of the season.

The White Sox (59-68) cut the lead to one on Garcia's sacrifice fly, but Chen still recorded his fourth quality start in his last five outings. Chen has allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his last eight outings.

Darren O'Day relieved Chen with runners on first and second bases and one out in the eighth. But the right-hander struck out both Jose Abreu and Garcia to escape the jam. O'Day has allowed just one run over his last 24 appearances. In that span, he has a 0.33 ERA with 33 strikeouts and eight walks in 27 innings.

Closer Zach Britton pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 30 opportunities this season as the Orioles improved to 25-19 in one-run games.

(c)2014 The Baltimore Sun

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