Orioles' streak comes to an end
Bullpen unable to preserve Millwood's solid outing
BALTIMORE -- The suddenly-surging Orioles proved on Saturday night that they are, in fact, beatable under new manager Buck Showalter. But they won't make it easy.
Struggling reliever Jason Berken allowed two runs to relinquish the lead and wipe away an impressive outing from veteran Kevin Millwood, who turned in the O's season-high fifth consecutive quality start, and an offense that plated the most runs on Chicago starter Gavin Floyd since June.
The result was a 4-2, series-evening loss in front of 24,929 at Camden Yards, handing Showalter his first defeat at the helm. And a litany of readily-available excuses, such as Floyd's dominance, the fact that the White Sox lead the American League Central, or that Showalter got the O's to tie a season-high four-game win streak in his first week, were all rendered useless.
"I don't like losing. I ain't real happy," said Showalter of his first managerial loss since Oct. 1, 2006, while with the Rangers. "It's not one of those deep, reflective moments. We'll figure out what went wrong and try to fix it."
Following an impressive pitchers' duel between Floyd and Millwood, Berken lost the battle of the bullpens and his effectiveness continues to wane in the season's second half. Berken entered in the seventh inning and Mark Kotsay laced a one-out single into right field and tried to stretch it to a double. Nick Markakis wouldn't let him, relaying in a perfect one-hop throw that shortstop Cesar Izturis scooped to keep the bases clear.
But the defense couldn't bail out Berken again, as A.J. Pierzynski's double down the first-base line just eluded Ty Wigginton's glove, scoring Alexei Ramirez, who walked, to tie the game at 2.
"Nick makes the great play, [I] come back and walk the guy with two outs. Stuff like that you can control," Berken said. "It's just not acceptable at that point for me to do that."
Berken was tagged for another run on two hits and a sacrifice bunt in the eighth, and after allowing just eight earned runs in his first 45 innings this season, he has given up 13 runs in his last 17.
"[Millwood] deserved better," Berken said of the well-liked veteran who was handed a no-decision in the loss. "I got to hold up my end of the bargain."
Millwood did more than that, going pitch-for-pitch with Floyd, and turning in one of his best outings of the year.
"I don't even think I've seen Millwood pitch this good in a while," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I'm happy. He's my friend."
There was nothing friendly about the O's right-hander on the hill, as Millwood conquered his biggest nemesis, the first inning, and made sure he wouldn't be the weak link in a suddenly deep rotation.
"I don't want to be the [weak spot]," said Millwood who tossed a scoreless first inning for just the second time in 13 starts. "Jeremy [Guthrie] kind of started it off, threw the ball well, everybody kind of followed suit. That put a little pressure on me to stay with it and keep pitching well.
"Selfishly, it was nice to go out and put together a solid start and give us a chance."
Millwood, who allowed 25 earned runs in his previous five starts, went on to throw six strong innings, allowing only Carlos Quentin's solo homer in the fourth. The 98-pitch outing marked the fewest earned runs Millwood has allowed since his second start of the season on April 11.
"I don't care how long you've been pitching, you get a little beat up mentally, especially when you care as much as he does about delivering expectations here," Showalter said of Millwood, whom he managed as a Ranger.
"He was the reason we were in that ballgame."
Facing Floyd, who entered Saturday 5-1 with a 0.99 ERA in his last eight starts, the O's squandered several chances to knock the tough righty out early.
The O's scored a two-out run in the third courtesy of Markakis' double and Wigginton's RBI single that was just out of Ramirez's reach at shortstop. Luke Scott followed with a base hit, but Wigginton, who slowed up after rounding second base, was tagged out trying to go from first to third on the play. Jones and Felix Pie each singled to start the fourth, but Matt Wieters hit into a double play and Izturis hit a comebacker to Floyd to end the inning.
"He basically been throwing like he's been throwing the past two months," Jones said of Floyd, whom he took deep for a solo shot in the second inning to snap Floyd's homerless stretch at 77 1/3 innings.
"They run quality pitching out there night after night, and they make runs matter at the end of the game," Showalter said of the White Sox, who improved to 63-47. "They've got a lot of ways to make leads matter, and [are] getting quality starting pitching. That's where we hope to be one day."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.