BALTIMORE (AP) Grayson Rodriguez allowed one hit over six innings, and the AL-best Baltimore Orioles clinched their second consecutive winning season with a 9-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday night.
Anthony Santander hit his 25th homer for Baltimore (82-49), which has won eight of its last 10 and increased its AL East lead over idle Tampa Bay to 2 1/2 games. The Orioles went 83-79 last year, their first winning season since 2016.
“So happy with how we swung the bat tonight,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “Really happy with how we pitched. We played really good defense. We have a long way to go, but to have 82 wins up to this point is a real credit to a lot of people in that clubhouse.”
The White Sox (52-80) have lost 11 of 16 and were shut out for the 10th time this season. Baltimore's shutout was its ninth.
Rodriguez (4-3) retired the first 11 batters before Luis Robert Jr. doubled to left. Robert was stranded when Eloy Jiménez grounded out two pitches later, and Chicago wouldn’t get a runner into scoring position the rest of the night.
Korey Lee was the only other White Sox baserunner against Rodriguez, drawing a one-out walk in the sixth.
Rodriguez was lifted after throwing 96 pitches. The 23-year-old rookie right-hander struck out six.
“He’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now,” Hyde said. “He only had 40-something pitches through four innings or so. He was really pounding the strike zone early."
Rodriguez is 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in his last six starts. He has lowered his ERA from 7.35 to 5.03 since returning to the majors July 17 and sees the need for greater improvement.
“I think fastball command needs to get better,” Rodriguez said. “I think we still have a long way to go with that. Kind of eliminating some of those wasted pitches above the zone, really just kind of getting back down at the knees, wherever the catcher is setting up. That’s something we’re still going to keep working on.”
Ryan O’Hearn's two-run single in the third inning opened the scoring. Ryan McKenna walked, stole second, moved up to third on a flyball and scored on Chicago starter Michael Kopech's wild pitch in the fourth. Ryan Mountcastle added an RBI single later in the inning to make it 4-0.
Kopech (5-12) allowed four runs in four innings, striking out five. The right-hander is 2-5 with a 7.34 ERA in nine starts since the All-Star break and has walked at least four batters in six consecutive starts.
“Ultimately, I'm not terribly upset with how I pitched,” Kopech said. “I'm pretty upset with the results. We're looking to win games and it's unfortunate when I can't get to the fifth and I can't take a little bit of a load off the bullpen and can't put us in a better position to win.”
McKenna added a two-run single off Edgar Navarro in the eighth. Santander capped the inning with a three-run shot to right. Santander, who had 33 homers last year, became the first Orioles switch-hitter to hit 25 in consecutive seasons since Hall of Famer Eddie Murray in 1987-88.
Baltimore extended its streak of series without being swept to 82. It is the fifth-longest streak in MLB history and the longest since the St. Louis Cardinals' record 124 in a row from 1942-44.
Orioles: Hyde said OF Aaron Hicks (back) has run the last couple days and is scheduled to resume baseball activities “pretty soon.” ... OF Austin Hays had a routine day off.
White Sox: Rookie RHP Jesse Scholtens (1-6, 4.15 ERA) faces Baltimore for the first time as the series continues Tuesday.
Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer (12-5, 4.31) is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts at Camden Yards in August.
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