BALTIMORE (AP) - After struggling through four innings, Chris Sale was done.
During a season in which the left-hander has served as the ace of the Chicago White Sox staff, Sale finally came up with a clunker in a 6-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
Sale (15-5) gave up four runs and six hits in his shortest start of the season. Coming off a 13-strikeout win over the Yankees, he lost for the second time in six starts since July 21.
With the White Sox down 4-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth, Chicago manager Robin Ventura determined that it was best for Sale to simply call it a night.
``It was just one of those evenings it didn't look like he had it,' Ventura said.
Sale couldn't argue.
``You don't want to get that call,' he said. ``I didn't do anything to help our team win tonight. I kind of put them in a tough spot, pulling the starter after four. I got no one to blame but myself. That's as bad as it gets. I just didn't have it, didn't bring it, didn't have it.'
It was the fifth straight road loss for the White Sox, who won six in a row at home before dropping the first two of this four-game series. It was Chicago's most lopsided shutout defeat of the season.
``After a good homestand, lose the first one and then have it handed to you,' Sale said. ``It's not what you're looking for.'
Chris Tillman allowed one hit over seven innings and Nick Markakis drove in three runs to help Baltimore to its fourth straight win.
Lew Ford homered for the second time in two nights and Adam Jones hit his 100th career home run for the Orioles, who moved a season-high 14 games over .500 (71-57) and remained atop the AL wild-card standings.
The only hit against Tillman (7-2) was a dribbler by Dayan Viciedo in the fifth inning that shortstop J.J. Hardy couldn't snag with an attempted barehanded pickup.
``If J.J. isn't making the play, then no one's making the play,' said Tillman, who lamented his four walks more than that one scratch hit.
Brian Matusz worked the final two innings, allowing one hit in completing Baltimore's seventh shutout.
The Orioles have won 12 of 15 at home as they continue toward their first winning season in 15 years, but their scintillating play has not attracted large crowds at Camden Yards this week. Only 12,814 showed up for this one, slightly more than the 10,955 on Monday night.
Those in attendance saw an impressive pitching performance by Tillman, who has as many wins this year as in his previous three seasons combined.
``Tillman shut down one of the game's best offenses,' Jones said. ``Those guys are hitting. He shut that lineup down.'
After Sale struck out the first two batters in the second inning, Baltimore used a single by Nate McLouth and two walks to load the bases for Markakis, who drove in three runs with a double to center.
``It was almost like I hit a brick wall,' Sale said. ``The first couple of (batters) I felt like I was dialed in, throwing strikes. Then it just got away.'
Ford made it 4-0 in the third with a drive to left, making it seven straight games in which Sale has given up at least one home run. The last time Ford homered on successive nights was in 2005, when he homered in three consecutive games with Minnesota.
Manny Machado delivered a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Jones hit an opposite-field shot to right in the seventh. The drive ended a career-high 110 at-bat homerless drought and gave him 25 for the season, tying a career high.
Earlier this week, the slumping Jones said he was on ``a vacation.' Asked if he was back, Jones replied, ``I booked the flight back home. I'm on standby or something. I don't know. But that's why you've got 25 guys here to pick you up.'
NOTES: McLouth had a season-high three hits. ... LHP Joe Saunders will make his Orioles debut on Wednesday night, starting against Chicago RHP Dylan Axelrod, who was recalled by the White Sox from Triple-A Charlotte on Tuesday. Axelrod replaces Gavin Floyd, who was placed on the 15-day DL with an elbow injury. ... The last time Baltimore was 14 games over .500 was June 21, 2005 (42-28). ... Chicago C A.J. Pierzynski went 0 for 3 and is hitless in his last 14 at_bats.
The Associated Press News Service
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