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BAL@CWS: Reimold rips a two-run homer for the lead

CHICAGO -- Asked after Monday's win if he was ever planning on hitting a home run before the ninth inning this year, typically reserved Orioles left fielder Nolan Reimold cracked a smile and said, "Good question."

It didn't take long for Reimold to come up with a definitive answer. He continued his torrid offensive stretch with another big homer, this time a sixth-inning blast, Tuesday night that helped lift the first-place Orioles to a 3-2 win over the White Sox.

"It's never been a question of skills," manager Buck Showalter said of Reimold, who has homered in four consecutive games played and is hitting .351 with eight RBIs during his eight-game hitting streak. "It's been a question of health in a lot of cases with Nolan. It's good to see him off to a good start."

Reimold's surge has coincided with the Orioles'. Baltimore has won four of its last five games on its three-city, 10-game road trip and leads the Majors with 20 home runs, a statistic nobody could have envisioned given the team's question marks at the cleanup spot this spring.

"For us, we know what we're capable of," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who followed Reimold with his third homer of the year. "We know it's possible. The fact that we've all got out to a hot start in 11 games might be a little bit surprising, but if you say that somewhere throughout the season we'd have 20 home runs through an 11-game span, I don't think that would be surprising. We've got off to a nice start and we just need to keep going."

While the Orioles' offseason was void of any big name pick-ups, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette did sign starter Wei-Yin Chen out of Japan, and the 26-year-old lefty picked up his first Major League win following Tuesday's 5 1/3-inning outing.

"This is just like a dream come true," Chen, said through his interpreter. "This is my first win and it seems like this is a dream when I was in high school. It feels special. I can't say any words at all."

His teammates made sure he wouldn't forget Tuesday night, with reliever Luis Ayala getting Chen with shaving cream when he came out of the clubhouse bathroom, and starter Tommy Hunter following with a blue Gatorade shower.

"There's the mess over there," Reimold said, gesturing to the carpeted area a few feet away. "I saw it, I'm sure he enjoyed it. [It was] a good celebration."

"He was effective," Showalter said of Chen, who allowed two runs on six hits and two walks. "He came over with somewhat of a changeup, but really as a third pitch, and [pitching coach Rick Adair] and him have been working hard for a long time. Once you go through the order once or twice, you really need that third pitch to have some length to your outing. And that was key for him [Tuesday night]."

Chen held the White Sox scoreless until the sixth inning which, once again, proved to be trouble for him. Working with a three-run lead, he allowed a leadoff single and issued a one-out walk to Paul Konerko and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. A.J. Pierzynski doubled them in with a line drive to the right-field corner, and Chen exited in favor of reliever Darren O'Day after Alex Rios' single put runners on the corners.

O'Day kept the White Sox at bay, getting a popup and making a heads-up throw to nab Rios on an attempt to steal second, to strand the potential tying run at third. O'Day also pitched out of a two-out double in the seventh, getting Brent Morel to strike out to keep the Orioles' one-run lead intact.

"It's beautiful," Chen said of an Orioles relief corps which has pitched to a 1.47 ERA the last five games. "The men behind me support me a lot and I appreciate it."

Reliever Luis Ayala pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning before handing the ball to closer Jim Johnson, who picked up his fifth save, and is now 13 for his last 13 in save opportunities, dating back to last season.

But it was Reimold who continued to steal the spotlight, breaking through a scoreless tie one out into the sixth in sending White Sox starter John Danks' 0-1 pitch over the left-center field fence for a two-run homer. Reimold's homer, his first outside of the ninth inning, makes him the first Oriole to homer in four consecutive games since Luke Scott -- now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays -- did it from May 27-30, 2009.

"I would like two pitches back," Danks said. "I made a mistake to a pretty hot hitter in Reimold. I got in a hitters' count with JJ Hardy and he's a good hitter. He did what you are supposed to do with that pitch."

Reimold also made a pair of impressive plays in the field, an area of his game he takes particular pride in and one he said he hopes to improve as the season progresses.

"Nolan's always been a good defender underway," Showalter said. "He can track a ball and really make up some ground that a lot of people can't once he gets underway. He and [coach Wayne] Kirby have worked hard on his breaks and some stuff that he does and it's really good to see him get a return for it because that was a big difference for us."

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