By JON PALMIERI
(AP) — Although they are among the best teams in the majors and own a very healthy lead in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles haven’t had much luck completing sweeps.
Their next opportunity comes Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox.
Baltimore has built a season-high 8 1/2-game lead in the division – also the largest in both leagues – by playing consistent baseball and picking up the pace the last two months. The Orioles are a major league-best 30-13 since June 30, a stretch that started with their most recent sweep – four straight wins against Texas. Their only other sweep of at least three games this season came May 6-8 at Tampa Bay.
After their streak of eight straight series wins was snapped by Cleveland over the weekend, the Orioles (72-52) have rebounded with victories in the first two games against the White Sox by a combined 13-3 score.
Chris Tillman pitched three-hit ball over eight innings and Chris Davis doubled home two runs in the sixth, lifting Baltimore to a 5-1 victory Tuesday and an AL-best 38-26 road record.
“We’re one closer to getting through 38 and being in the playoffs. That’s what it means,” manager Buck Showalter said. “But you just keep playing the games. Keep playing the games. They inch along this time of year and you don’t spend a lot of time watching other scoreboards.
“You spend the time watching your own scoreboard.”
Tommy Hunter completed the three-hitter, marking the Orioles’ first time allowing three hits or fewer in three consecutive games since 1992. The club record is four set in 1974.
“You look at where they’re sitting, they have to be able to pitch well to do that, especially in the division that they’re in, playing against a lot of home-run hitting teams,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “They pitch well, not only the starters but their bullpen, too.”
Chicago has lost four of five to the Orioles this year, with its relievers posting an 8.79 ERA. Baltimore’s bullpen, meanwhile, has compiled a 0.56 ERA in the season series.
Wei-Yin Chen (12-4, 3.76 ERA) looks to continue the Orioles’ excellent run of pitching – and his own – in the finale.
The left-hander is 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA in his last seven starts, holding opponents to one or no runs while completing at least seven innings in three of his past four outings. He fared well versus Cleveland ace Corey Kluber on Friday, yielding one run and four hits over seven innings in a 2-1, 11-inning loss.
Chen is 1-0 with a 3.13 ERA in four career starts against the White Sox, notching that victory in his only appearance at U.S. Cellular Field in 2012.
Hector Noesi (7-8, 4.84) seeks a third straight winning decision for Chicago. After allowing one earned run over 14 1-3 innings in his previous two starts, the right-hander wasn’t nearly as sharp Friday against Toronto. He gave up five runs and eight hits over five-plus innings, but received ample offensive support in an 11-5 victory.
Noesi had one of his best starts of the season June 25 at Baltimore, keeping the Orioles from getting a runner past first base until the seventh inning and leaving with a 4-0 lead after giving up two straight singles in the eighth. He was charged with two runs in an eventual 5-4 loss in 12 innings.
Despite that performance, Noesi is 0-2 with an 8.10 ERA in three starts versus Baltimore.
Rookie Jose Abreu tied for the major league lead with his 32nd home run Tuesday night, providing the lone highlight for the White Sox (59-67), who look to avoid falling a season-worst nine games under .500.
Updated August 20, 2014
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