Sox survive Koch's wild 9th

SportsBaseballBaltimore OriolesMark BuehrleChicago White SoxAmerican LeagueBilly Koch

Billy Koch feels the pain of White Sox fans.

"It's pathetic," Koch said, neatly summarizing his performance Wednesday night.

"That's a pathetic showing. It's not fair to the 24 guys in this room or the coaching staff or the fans of Chicago."

And this was after Koch had picked up a save in the Sox's 6-5 victory over the Orioles.

The Sox led 6-4 when Koch entered the game to start the ninth inning. He proceeded to walk Melvin Mora, give up a single to Miguel Tejada and walk Rafael Palmeiro to load the bases with no outs.

"There's absolutely no reason in the world I should walk those guys," Koch said. "Let them put the ball in play and get themselves out."

Javy Lopez, who homered in the sixth inning off starter Mark Buehrle, then hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Mora to make it 6-5.

Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts throwing in the bullpen as Jay Gibbons, who also had homered earlier, stepped to the plate.

Gibbons hit into a force play, with Tejada moving to third. Then Luis Matos grounded out to first.

Only then could everyone in the Sox dugout exhale.

"I apologize to everyone out there," Koch said. "It's not fair to have to bite your nails down to a bloody stump watching me pitch."

After throwing 37 pitches in a marathon ninth inning Monday—in which Koch allowed a hit, three walks and two runs in a 5-4 victory—he threw 22 pitches in Wednesday's ninth, just 10 of which were strikes.

Koch said catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., watching the inning from the dugout after leaving the game with a cramp in his hip, told him he was pulling his head off his pitches.

Catcher Miguel Olivo went out to the mound several times in the inning trying to get Koch to slow down his delivery.

Koch said he knows he never has been a perfect closer in the mold of an Eric Gagne or Mariano Rivera, but lately he's making Mitch Williams look boring.

"I wish it could be easier," Guillen said after another nine innings in which the Sox took the lead, lost the lead, re-gained the lead and nearly threw it away again before winning the 11th of their 12 one-run games.

Guillen said he can live with Koch giving up hits and then having someone hit a home run, but "the problem is walking people."

The Sox came into the game with the fourth-most walks allowed in the American League and issued another five Wednesday.

Mark Buehrle, pitching on three days' rest for the third time in his career, lasted just 52/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and four runs, three earned. It was the fourth straight non-quality start for Buehrle. His ERA is now 5.27 after seven starts.

"I'm frustrated myself," Buehrle said. "We score runs, and I let them back in the game."

The Sox took a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-run single by Olivo, pinch-hitting for Alomar. The Orioles tied the game in the third with a pair of runs—one of which was unearned on a Buehrle error—then took the lead on Gibbons' home run.

Frank Thomas' RBI double in the fifth scored Magglio Ordonez to tie the game 3-3 before Lopez put the Orioles back in front with a solo shot in the sixth. The Orioles loaded the bases against Buehrle with two outs in the sixth before Shingo Takatsu came on to get Mora to pop out.

The Sox took the lead for good in the seventh. Olivo led off with a double and scored on Juan Uribe's triple. Ordonez's third hit of the night scored Uribe. Aaron Rowand's pinch double in the eighth scored Joe Crede with the much-needed insurance run and ended the Sox's streak of 15 straight games with a homer.

"I guess we have to get used to [Koch]," Guillen said.

And for that, Koch is sorry.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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