BALTIMORE – During the seventh-inning stretch, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy” were played. Three scouts seated behind home plate stood.
Moments later, Jim Misudek, the Orioles manager of media relations announced the official paid attendance: zero.
There was actually a crowd estimated at about 100 gathered on Camden Street peering in to see whatever they could of the empty ballpark.
What they saw pleased them. In between chants of “O-R-I-O-L-E-S” and “Let’s go O’s,” the Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox 8-2 on Wednesday.
There were some familiar touches. Chris Davis, who often tosses balls into the stands at the ends of innings, threw some into the empty stadium.
Chatter could be heard on the field, but the game was devoid of controversy.
“It was still baseball between the lines. It's still that,” manager Buck Showalter said.
The players seemed to enjoy the novelty.
"It never fails, catch a ball to end the inning, it's just reaction. But I thought it would be fun. The first few were in the lower section and then I gave some love to the fans in the upper deck,” Davis said.
Davis has loads of fans in Baltimore, real and like today, imaginary ones. But he and his teammates tried to make light of a situation that they knew was dangerous.
The first baseman’s three-run home run, part of a decisive six-run first inning, did have that empty feeling.
“I’ll take any home run I can get at any time I can get it, but it’s definitely more fun where there are fans in the stands,” Davis said.
The Orioles (10-10) have now won three straight for the first time this season, and both their starting pitching and offense has begun to click.
As Showalter walked to the dugout in the moments before the game began, he reminded himself that this was important.
“You realize that you're a few minutes away from playing a major league baseball game that's going to count. You tried to stay focused on the competition, us trying to get where we want to be at the end of the season. But I also talked to them about the people who are going to be sitting around our city watching this game,” Showalter said.
Besides the self-appointed cheerleaders outside the gates, there were fans who rented a room in the neighboring Hilton Hotel and hung a “Go Orioles” banner outside it.
Adam Jones noticed them.
“A game with no fans, but they were out at the hotel. You could see on the balcony, you could hear them outside the gates. A lot of people were telling me to look up the check-ins on Facebook. So there were people around supporting, just not inside the stadium,” Jones said.
Ubaldo Jimenez (2-1) had another strong start, allowing two unearned runs in seven innings, walking one and striking out six.
“I thought it was pretty important, because what the city is going through right now is hard. I know a lot of people were watching that game on TV, supporting that game for the city. As a player you know that take the mound, you take the field and you know what’s going on outside,” Jimenez said.
On Sunday, in their last game before unrest caused two consecutive postponements, they scored 18 runs, their most in more than nine years scoring six runs in both the third and seventh innings.
They equaled that in the first inning. Eleven batters hit off Jeff Samardzija (1-2). Alejandro De Aza walked, Jimmy Paredes reached on an error and Delmon Young singled to load the bases. De Aza scored on Jones’ fly to right.
Davis hit home run that reached Eutaw Street for a 4-0 lead. Manny Machado and Everth Cabrera doubled, and after Caleb Joseph’s RBI single, it was a 6-0 lead.
Machado’s throwing error led to Chicago (8-10) scoring two runs in the fifth.
Cabrera’s second RBI double in the third scored Machado, and the third baseman hit his fourth homer of the year in the fifth.
Davis was asked what he wants people who watched to remember.
“I hope they see the good side of the city and the people who are out there helping to clean up and rebuild and help get the city back on its feet,” he said. “I hope the win kind of gives us a shot in the arm and picks everybody up.”
NOTES: The team had 10 or more hits for the fourth straight game. … Davis’ reached Eutaw Street for the sixth time. … Chris Tillman (2-2, 7.58) faces Alex Colome (0-0, 0.00) as the Orioles travel to Tampa Bay on Friday. … The game was played in two hours, three minutes, the fastest the team played since Oct. 2, 2010.