OAKLAND, Calif. — Coming off a heartbreaking, walk-off loss to open their 10-game, West Coast road trip Friday night, the Orioles’ resilience was tested Saturday night against an Oakland Athletics club with the best record in baseball.
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones sparked the Orioles by driving in five runs, tying his career high, including a three-run homer off Hammel just three batters into the game.
The top of the Orioles' order propelled their best offensive output in six games. Leadoff hitter Nick Markakis had four hits, and the top three batters — Markakis, Steve Pearce and Jones — were a combined 9-for-13 with three extra-base hits and six runs scored.
The Orioles hit three homers, including Chris Davis’ solo blast in the ninth inning off former Oriole Jim Johnson, his 16th blast of the season. The Orioles now have 119 for the season, passing the Toronto Blue Jays (117) for the most in baseball.
With the win, the Orioles (53-43) have won four of five games after a walk-off loss this season.
“It’s tough, it’s frustrating last night, but we’ve got another day,” Jones said. “You live to fight another day. It’s the beauty of baseball.”
In the Orioles’ game Friday, their first since the All-Star break, they took a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, only to see the game end on Josh Donaldson’s walk-off, three-run homer off closer Zach Britton.
Britton had an opportunity for redemption Saturday. Entering the game with two on and two outs in the ninth, Britton converted his 16th save in 19 chances by striking out Nick Punto to end the game.
“Any time you lose a game late that you were in control of, it’s tough,” catcher Nick Hundley said. “But we want Zach Britton out there every time. We believe in him. That’s what I told him after the win: ‘We want you out there. We all trust you.’ He came back and bounced back really well.”
The Orioles jumped on Hammel early. They chased the right-hander, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a bold, rotation-boosting trade July 5, three batters into the third inning, spoiling his first home start with his new team.
With runners on first and second in the first inning, Jones took a 2-0 fastball from Hammel into the left-field seats for his 17th homer of the season.
Three batters later, shortstop J.J. Hardy followed with a solo shot, taking a hanging, 2-2 curveball over the left-field fence for his fourth homer of the season, putting the Orioles up 4-0.
After Jones drew a leadoff walk and Nelson Cruz singled to open the third inning, Chris Davis laced an RBI double into the left-center-field gap. That was Hammel's last pitch Saturday.
“They do have some guys — really, [Nos.] 1 through 6 — who can do some damage,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They hit a lot of homer and they score a lot of runs. Pearce has been swinging the bat real well, and that’s where we had the most trouble, at the top of the lineup."
Hammel, the Orioles’ Opening Day starter last season, allowed five runs and six hits in two innings — the first time this year he has lasted fewer than five innings. It was also just the second time in 19 starts Hammel has allowed multiple homers.
“Playing behind him for two years, I think we had a solid scouting report on him,” Jones said. “And it was only last year when we had him, so it’s not like he’s a couple years removed. We had a plan just to get some strikes, and fortunately he fell behind and he threw us some good pitches and we didn’t miss them.”
Staked to an early 5-0 lead, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen won his third straight decision, holding the A’s to three runs and five hits in five innings. It was Chen’s shortest start in nine outings, but it was also the eighth time in nine outings he’s allowed three or fewer runs.
“This is a really good lineup, and they battle you,” Hundley said. “Don’t let the five innings fool you, because I think he threw the ball pretty good.”
After Chen gave up a solo homer to Brandon Moss in the third, Jones stepped to the plate in the fourth with two runners in scoring position after a single by Markakis and double by Pearce.
Jones bounced a two-run single past Oakland reliever Jose Otero and into center field, giving him five RBIs on the night and tying a career high set on July 27, 2008, as the Orioles went up 7-1.
The Athletics (60-37) chipped away at the lead on Jed Lowrie’s two-run, two-out double in the fourth. Markakis made a nice running snag on Craig Gentry’s line drive down the right-field line to get Chen out of the fifth.
“Very important,” Chen said of Markakis' catch through interpreter Louis Chao. “When the ball was hit, I looked back there and I saw that the ballpark is very spacious, and when Nicky caught the ball, I was really happy, because he really saved me and picked me up out there.”
Lowrie added another two-out, run-scoring hit in the sixth with a single off reliever Brad Brach.
Otherwise, the Orioles bullpen bent but didn't break. Despite allowing a run, Brach gave the Orioles two innings, and Darren O’Day was one out away from giving Britton the night off.
After watching O'Day allow a pair of two-out singles, Britton fell behind Punto 3-0, then came back to strike out the A's No. 9 hitter, ending the game and putting Friday's frustrating loss in the past.
“We’re approaching the 100-game mark, and it’s not just one year,” Showalter said. “It’s all a part of the process. Whether it’s Zach, whether it’s Wei-Yin, whether it’s Manny [Machado], you take in things along the way and you gain confidence from that. You look at as a way to separate yourself from things, as opposed to something you have anxiety about.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun