BALTIMORE — Jeff Samardzija and the White Sox defense got off to a rough start and Wednesday afternoon’s historic game was effectively over in quick fashion.
Without a soul in attendance other than scouts and media members, the Baltimore Orioles scored six times in the first inning and rolled to an 8-2 win over the White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
After citywide unrest Monday resulted in the cancellation of the first two games of the series, Samardzija took the loss Wednesday at the first game in Major League Baseball history to be closed to the public. Samardzija allowed eight runs (seven earned) and 10 hits in five innings while Ubaldo Jimenez pitched seven dominant innings for the Orioles.
“This was a weird day,” Samardzija said. “I’m not going to put too much into how we played today. It was an awkward situation where we sat around for a few days so we have to get back into a little rhythm and play some games in a row and keep going, keep working.”
With about 50-75 fans cheering and chanting from beyond the gates in left-center field and another dozen on hotel balconies across the way, the White Sox and Orioles finally played after games on Monday and Tuesday were cancelled in the aftermath of Monday’s riots. In deference to law enforcement efforts, the Orioles and White Sox agreed to play in front of an empty stadium.
[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox, Orioles have mixed emotions about making MLB history]
After Jimenez struck out two batters in a scoreless first inning, the Orioles offense picked up the energy. Coming off an 18-run outburst on Sunday, the Orioles took advantage of several freebies in the first.
Samardzija issued a leadoff walk to Alejandro De Aza but appeared to get a double play-ball off the bat of Jimmy Paredes only to have Jose Abreu throw high to second base. Chris Davis followed a Delmon Young single and an Adam Jones’ RBI sacrifice fly with a three-run home run on to Eutaw Street — only the 80th ball to ever reach the street beyond right field.
As Davis’ shot traveled out of the park, Orioles’ play-by-play man Gary Thorne could be heard yelling his home run call with no crowd to drown out the noise.
Everth Cabrera later doubled in a run and Caleb Joseph had an RBI single for the Orioles, who grabbed a 6-0 lead.
“Today started off bad and got worse,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It was just right from the beginning. You give them opportunities. They take advantage of it. I don’t think we were all that selective offensively either. It was just a weird day. You move on and get ready for the next one.”
Pitching with a cushion against an aggressive offense, Jimenez was extremely efficient. He faced the minimum in six of seven innings and only got into trouble once after his defense struggled in the fifth inning.
That’s when the White Sox were able to break through for a pair of runs. Machado, who homered in the fifth inning and finished a triple shy of the cycle, made a throwing error that allowed Adam LaRoche to score. Geovany Soto also had an RBI groundout as the White Sox got within 7-2 in the fifth.
But Samardzija gave up one last run on Machado’s homer in the bottom of the fifth and the White Sox offense only sent 13 batters to the plate over the final four innings.
“I tried to do too much,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Sometimes you have bad games like this and you have to move on. It was a very awful game for me on offense and defense but that kind of thing happens.
“(The atmosphere) was kind of weird, but you can’t blame that on the crowd.”
Nothing could have truly prepared both teams’ players for what they would face. Each team hit the field in the 30 minutes leading up to first pitch with pregame music blaring over the sound system.
But once the game began, an eerie vibe dominated the scene as the two teams took the field at 2:05 p.m. EST in front of 45,971 empty seats. A prerecorded National Anthem was played and so was the Seventh Inning Stretch. Walkup music accompanied each player to the plate.
[NBC SHOP: Get the latest White Sox gear here]
But in between, players could hear everything on the field from the opposing dugouts to normal chatter to Hawk Harrelson and Thorne calling the game from the broadcast booth above.
Fans outside the stadium did their best to support the Orioles, chanting “Manny, Manny” when Machado homered and a number of “Let’s Go O’s.” Foul balls banged off empty seats and the occasional police and news choppers hovered overhead.
But perhaps it wasn’t what they heard that offered the strangest comparison — the crowd.
Whereas Machado’s fifth-inning homer into the left-center field bullpen normally would have been accompanied by a roar, the only sound was the delayed cheers of fans beyond the gate and a few claps from the Orioles.
“You hear some of the announcing when you got up there,” second baseman Micah Johnson said. “That’s how quiet it was. You hear fans outside the stadium, literally everything. I’m sure you heard me like ‘No!’ on strike three. It’s weird. I said ‘My bad’ out loud.”
“There’s no comparison.”