BALTIMORE -- Despite a picturesque Monday afternoon at Camden Yards, the Orioles played under the dense haze of disappointment and shock against the Chicago White Sox. With the revelation of Rafael Palmeiro's 10-day suspension for violating the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program hovering over an already deflated and demoralized team, the Orioles dropped a 6-3 decision as the White Sox completed a four-game sweep and mercifully ended the Orioles' 1-7 homestand. The White Sox simply outplayed the Orioles for the entire series, but it's difficult to believe the players weren't adversely affected by the shocking news. Chris Gomez started at first base and the Orioles' offense lacked punch against Mark Buehrle and a crew of Chicago relievers.
The loss was the Orioles' sixth in a row and 14th of the past 16. Monday was just like a lot of the other previous defeats: poor execution by the bullpen, lack of clutch hitting and some bad luck. Daniel Cabrera came back to start for the Orioles after leaving Saturday's game when he was hit on the back of the right hand by a Joe Crede liner. Cabrera pitched well enough to win, but his lack of command came back to haunt him. "I thought he pitched well and hung in there," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "But we just weren't able to get the big hits. It's been tough but our guys are grinding." When asked about the most positive aspect of his team's recent stretch, Mazzilli said: "There's a tomorrow." The game was tied at 1 when Cabrera began tiring and the White Sox capitalized. In the sixth, he walked Carl Everett and then hit A.J. Pierzynski with a 3-0 pitch with two out. Jermaine Dye followed with an RBI single to give the White Sox the lead. Buehrle was rolling along, his streak of 49 consecutive starts of at least six innings apparently cinched. But he plunked B.J. Surhoff in the bottom of the sixth inning with a pitch and immediately was ejected by home-plate umpire Brian Gorman, who did not issue any warnings. Buehrle walked off the mound and slapped hands with teammates. Tensions had been flared Sunday night when Todd Williams hit second baseman Tadahito Iguchi on the hip with a pitch and he was forced to leave the game. Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen accused Williams of throwing at Iguchi on purpose after Sunday's game and had more to say on Monday. "That [ejection] was shocking," he said. "You don't want to hit a guy with two outs and the tying run at first base. I respect the umpires' decision because they've got more power than anybody. They told me they're trying to protect the players and do their job. What's so crazy is they pick two outs with no men on base, and they thought we picked with the go-ahead run and first base and hit a guy to put someone in scoring position." The Orioles couldn't take advantage of Buehrle's message. Luis Vizcaino came on and struck out Chris Gomez to end the sixth with two runners on base. The White Sox added a run when left-handed hitting Timo Perez laced an RBI double off lefty reliever Tim Byrdak to cash in Joe Crede, who had singled. It was obvious that the Orioles' bullpen was exhausted. Three times in the past five games, the starting pitcher did not reach the third inning, so when the Orioles sorely needed their relievers to shut down the White Sox the rest of the way, they simply couldn't. Jorge Julio relieved Byrdak and gave up Pierzynski's second homer in three days, a solo shot that made it 4-1. After he gave up two more singles, Julio was replaced by Jason Grimsley, who induced a Crede double-play ball. But as has been Grimsley's luck in the past two weeks, he walked Perez and gave up a two-run double to Pablo Ozuna for a 6-1 lead. The Orioles had run out of energy. They tried one final rally, scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth. But Brian Roberts, one time the league's leading hitter, continue his downward spiral by striking out against Damaso Marte on three pitches. Roberts is hitting .240 since the All-Star break, a testament to the team's second-half struggles. "They're a very good team," Mazzilli said of the 69-35 White Sox. "They executed everything they had to. This is a long season. We've gone through some ups and downs. We're on that down right now and we've got to turn it around. We have to get it back to what we're used to doing."
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.