A lackluster road trip didn't help the Baltimore Orioles' playoff hopes but a visit from the scuffling Chicago White Sox might.
The Orioles will try to keep the White Sox winless on their lengthy trek in Thursday night's opener of a four-game series.
Baltimore (73-65) finished 3-6 on its trip after losing its final two games against fellow AL wild card contender Cleveland. Manny Machado hit a three-run homer in Wednesday's finale but the Orioles couldn't overcome an early four-run deficit in a 6-4 loss.
"It was a tough road trip because we did some things well, but not as consistently well as we needed them to be," manager Buck Showalter said.
The defeat pushed Baltimore one-half game behind the Indians and four games behind Tampa Bay in a competitive field for the AL's final playoff berth. Only three games separate the four teams that have a serious chance to catch the Rays.
"We know everybody is trying to make the playoffs at this point," Machado said. "But we're not in panic mode. I don't think we will be either."
Making the playoffs will be impossible if the Orioles don't improve their hitting with runners in scoring position. They batted .215 (14 for 65) in such situations on the trip, going 4 for 27 against the Indians.
The Orioles will try for some better results against one of the AL's worst clubs. The White Sox (56-82) dropped to 0-6 on their 10-game trip with a 6-5 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday.
Chicago trailed 6-1 after seven innings before nearly tying the game in the eighth.
"That's one thing I say about our team is we do fight to the end," captain Paul Konerko said. "We've had a lot of games that looked just like that this year where we were down four, five runs and we fight back, we just can't finish it off."
The White Sox are batting .219 during their trek and Baltimore right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (8-7, 4.11 ERA) is hoping this matchup will help him bounce back from one of the worst start of his career.
Gonzalez was tagged for seven runs over four-plus innings in an 8-5 loss to the Yankees on Friday.
"He pitched as well as you'd want, but couldn't get over the hump," Showalter said. "Miguel has pitched well this year and he'll get another chance."
In his first start against the White Sox, Gonzalez will pitch opposite Jose Quintana (7-5, 3.69), who should be well-rested for this outing. The left-hander made only 20 pitches before being lifted after a rain delay in a 9-1 loss to Yankees on Monday.
Quintana is 0-1 with a 4.22 ERA in two career starts against Baltimore, but he struck out a career-high 11 and gave up two hits over seven scoreless innings in a 3-2 win July 4.
That victory helped the White Sox take two of three from Baltimore in their only other meeting this season. The Orioles won three of four in the most recent matchup at Camden Yards from Aug. 27-30, 2012.
Avisail Garcia is one of two White Sox players to have faced Gonzalez, going 2 for 3 with a home run. Jeff Keppinger (1 for 10) is the other.
Baltimore's J.J. Hardy needs one more homer to become the ninth shortstop to hit 25 or more in at least three seasons since 1901. He's 3 for 33 (.091) in his last nine games against the White Sox and 1 for 5 all-time against Quintana.
The Associated Press News Service
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