Orioles rough up White Sox in empty stadium
Baltimore — The cheers from the small group of Orioles fans gathered outside the locked gates beyond center field echoed throughout an empty Camden Yards every time the home team scored a run.
There was no roar of the crowd inside the ballpark on this surreal day.
In what was believed to be the first major league game played without fans in attendance, Chris Davis hit a three-run homer in a six-run first inning Wednesday and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox 8-2.
"It was kind of like instructional league, Gulf Coast League, Arizona League," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the lack of fans.
The game was closed to fans out of concern for their safety following recent rioting in Baltimore after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died in police custody.
The unusual decision to play the game was made because it was the best time to fill out the schedule for both teams.
In a crisp 2 hours, 3 minutes, Baltimore won its third straight since snapping a five-game losing streak.
"It was just a surreal environment," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I really don't think we want to play in another one like this. I don't think they do either."
Ubaldo Jimenez (2-1) continued his rebound from last season's struggles, allowing two runs — one earned — on three hits with six strikeouts and just one walk over seven innings. Manny Machado hit his fourth home run among his three hits and Caleb Joseph had a pair of RBIs.
"We all know everything the city is going through," Jimenez said. "So that's something you put in your mind, you have to go out there and do something that would be good for the fans."
White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija (1-2) allowed a season-high eight runs — seven earned — on 10 hits, including two homers, over just five innings. Entering the game, he had not allowed a run over his previous 10 innings.
The Orioles batted around against Samardzija in the first. With the bases loaded, Adam Jones hit a sacrifice fly and Davis followed with a three-run homer that landed on a nearly empty Eutaw Street. A double by Everth Cabrera and a single by Joseph rounded out the scoring.
Samardzija continued to labor, allowing another RBI single to Joseph in the third.
"It had a little spring training feel to it," Samardzija said about the atmosphere. "It was a good lineup. They jumped on me in the first and that was that."
Machado's fifth error in the past eight games on a grounder by Alexei Ramirez gave Chicago its first run in the fifth. A ground-out by Geovany Soto later that inning pulled them to 7-2. Machado made up for his mistake with a solo homer that inning.
At the end of the day, the players were happy to move on from the experience.
"A game with no fans, but they were out at the hotel," Jones said. "You could see on the balcony, you could hear them outside the gates. A lot of people were telling me to look up the check-ins on Facebook. So there were people around supporting, just not inside the stadium. But there was still some support."