CHICAGO – The game was slipping away from Bud Norris. The Orioles were up by just a run in the bottom of the seventh and Conor Gillaspie hit a long drive to right field.
Nick Markakis ran back, leaped and took a two-run home run away from Gillaspie and kept the Orioles lead intact.
Norris leaped on the mound and watched as his teammates scored five runs in the eighth and make the final a deceptively easy 8-2 over the Chicago White Sox before 17,686 at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night.
For the first six innings, Bud Norris simply overpowered the White Sox, allowing just one baserunner. In the seventh, Avisail Garcia drove in two runs with a two-out RBI single, and then it was Gillaspie’s turn.
Markakis, who would hit a two-run home run as part of the five-run eighth, had perhaps the most memorable catch of his long Orioles career.
“I don’t know if it would have gone out, I don’t know, but I’m glad I caught it in a big situation in the game,” Markakis said.
Manager Buck Showalter doesn’t always have the best view of a play from the dugout here, but liked what he saw.
“I saw the tail end of it and I said to myself, 'He caught that?' That was big. The score won't look like it, but obviously that was a big play,” Showalter said.
This season, Markakis has gotten much more acclaim than he’s gotten in the past as he’s ascended to sixth place on the team’s all-time hit list.
“He's the rock. He's as consistent a guy as you ever want to have. We've got a lot of guys who you know what you're getting when they walk through the door every day. Nick's one of those,” Showalter said.
The Orioles (71-52) scored three runs off Chris Sale (10-3) in six innings and Sale could appreciate the catch and the effect it had on the game.
“We were a great outfielder away from potentially winning that game,” Sale said.
Norris won his 11th game, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out five and walking none. He did hit a batter.
After the game, he marveled at the catch.
“I saw him tracking it, I knew he had a play on it. I didn’t think he was going to go over the fence for that,” Norris said. “That changes the game right there, they would have taken the lead and changed completely the game.”
Norris retired the first seven White Sox (59-66) batters until Jordan Danks singled with one out in the third. Danks tried to steal second and was thrown out by Caleb Joseph to end the third.
The Orioles lead the AL East by 7 ½ games.
Norris raced through the fourth, fifth and sixth before running into trouble in the seventh. He hit Alejandro De Aza with a pitch to lead off the inning. Alexei Ramirez doubled De Aza to third. Jose Abreu lined out to right and Adam Dunn was called out on strikes.
Avisall Garcia singled to score De Aza and Ramirez, and then Conor Gillaspie hit his shot.
“I thought I had a shot at it the whole way. Just positioned myself where I thought the ball was going to land. I was going after it, doing everything I can to catch it, especially with the situation in the game. The way Bud was pitching you have to do everything to catch the ball,” Markakis said.
J.J. Hardy led off the second with his seventh home run of the year.
The Orioles scored again in the fifth when Markakis singled with two outs and scored on Steve Pearce’s double. Pearce tried to score on Adam Jones’ infield single, but he was thrown out at the plate.
Nelson Cruz led off the sixth with his 32nd home run of the year. He’s one away from his career high set in 2009.
Sale allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings.
The Orioles added five runs in the eighth on Jonathan Schoop’s bases-loaded double, which cleared the bases, and Markakis’ 11th home run of the year. That made it 8-2.
Norris could enjoy that 11th win.
“It means everything to me. That’s what my job is to do, to go out there and win ballgames. Being the starting pitcher in a five-man rotation, [my job] is to go out there and give your team every opportunity to win. We’re having an unbelievable season, but I want to big a piece of the puzzle as I can be and help the team any way I can,’ Norris said.
NOTES: Markakis has a 10-game hitting streak…Chris Tillman (9-5, 3.68) faces Jose Quintana (6-9, 3.14) on Tuesday night.