O's can't keep pace with Thome

O's can't keep pace with Thome, Sox

CHICAGO -- This was the talking point to frame the rest of the season. The Orioles need more from their starting pitchers.

They got eight runs and 14 hits off the White Sox on Friday, but it wasn't enough on a night where Jim Thome hit two home runs and finished with a career-high seven RBIs, part of a power surge that left the Orioles with a 12-8 loss at U.S. Cellular Field.

Jason Berken didn't provide the length the Orioles (40-49) were looking for and was knocked out after 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander allowed six runs, all earned, on seven hits. Berken (1-7) has not won a game since his big league debut May 26.

"I just got to find a way to be more consistent down in the zone, that way when mistakes do happen, there's less chance that I will be hurt with it," Berken said. "I think the biggest key for me is just starting off [with] contact and not running into such deep counts. [I'd] have some more options and it keeps my pitch count down."

Thome's first at-bat Friday night landed safely for the Orioles as a popup to the warning track in left field. By the fifth inning, Thome had smashed a three-run homer into the U.S. Cellular Field sports bar in right. That snapped a 3-3 tie and ended Berken's night after 81 pitches.

"[Thome] uses the whole field," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He's not reluctant to kind of measure what the pitcher has. He'll take strikes. He'll set the guy up. [He's] going to the Hall of Fame."

From there, Baltimore's bullpen had trouble keeping it close.

Matt Albers walked two consecutive batters in the sixth before giving way to Danys Baez. The reliever hit Jermaine Dye with a pitch that nearly reached his face to load the bases. Thome then crushed a grand slam that traveled an estimated 448 feet to center, making it 10-5.

"You don't feel it off the bat," Thome said. "I was just trying to get a ball up in the zone, and fortunately, I got it. When you hit a ball like that, everything kind of stops. [You] get the crowd into it, you come in the dugout and they're all excited. It's a big hit for the team. [It's] almost like time stops."

All of which underlined Trembley's bigger point coming into the second half. "We've said it: Our starting pitching needs to go deeper in the games so that we don't have to go to the bullpen early," Trembley said.

The Baltimore staff certainly received enough support. The lineup's first four hitters -- Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Aubrey Huff -- accounted for seven runs, eight hits and six RBIs.

Jones lifted a two-run homer -- his 13th of the season -- in the sixth that made it 6-5. Meanwhile, Markakis hit his first home run since June 16.

"Jones carried over tonight what he did in the All-Star Game," Trembley said. "Nick will be fine. Nick will be right where he's supposed to be when the season's over. [Nick's] a technician -- he's a good hitter."

The Orioles have lost eight of their last 11 road games. John Danks (8-6), who allowed three runs in five innings, represented the eighth consecutive left-handed starter they've faced. All-Star Mark Buehrle will make it nine in a row, which ties a Major League record, on Saturday.

"It's always nice to have a little break, relax, refresh, just get away from it for a little while," Markakis said. "Now, we're back in the swing of things. [Tonight] was a hitting duel. They swung the bats well. We swung the bats well. It's [just] one of those games."

Patrick Mooney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.