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Orioles rout White Sox in historic game

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Orioles rout White Sox in historic game

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.

[RELATED: Baltimore unrest puts things in perspective for White Sox]

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.”

 

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

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USA TODAY

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

On Wednesday morning, ESPN.com released their rankings of all 30 MLB team's starting rotations. The rankings were a nod to the current structure of the rotation, as well as how they were likely to perform in the future. And that is why the Chicago White Sox being ranked dead last in the league is somewhat alarming. 

Overall, the White Sox rotation is 28th in WHIP and 29th in strikeouts. 

Lucas Giolito is currently the team leader in wins with four, but his ERA sits at an unsightly 7.19. James Shields has been decent in spurts, but a general lack of run support has limited his effectiveness. Carlos Rodon has been a mixed bag since returning, but was able to reach the seventh inning in his last start. This is encouraging considering that he hadn't made it that far in any of his previous three starts. And Reynaldo Lopez continues to rack up quality starts—much like Shields—but has two wins to show for it. 

Veteran players like closing pitcher Joakim Soria and Shields are sure to be hot names on the trade market, and that could go a long way towards bringing in additional prospects to build up the White Sox farm system, and lead to a much improved rotation in the future.

So the White Sox obviously deserve to be ranked lowly until they can groom their minor league starter prospects into MLB-ready staff members, something that looks like it could take longer than originally expected. Flame-throwing top prospect Michael Kopech is still amassing high strikeouts numbers, but he is walking over six batters per outing, showing an obvious issue with control. 

White Sox fans can take their mind off of ESPN ranking the team's rotation 30th in the league by turning their attention to Eloy Jimenez. He has been absolutely crushing it in Double-A Birmingham, and will likely be making his debut with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights on Saturday. That game will be live on NBC Sports Chicago. So sit back, relax and look forward to the future, wherever it may take White Sox faithful. 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Ask Us Anything Part 2

In Part 2 of "Ask Us Anything" we answer the following questions: Who will be the biggest free agent the White Sox sign this off-season? What are the chances they trade Avi Garcia before the deadline? What's your assessment so far of Luis Robert?  Who's on your all-time busted prospect list? Is Omar Vizquel the next White Sox manager? Would the 1994 White Sox have won the World Series if there wasn't a strike?  What's the long term plan at third base? These questions and many more on this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.

If you missed Part 1 of 'Ask Us Anything', you can listen to the full episode here 

Listen to the full Part 2 of 'Ask Us Anything' at this link or in the embedded player below: