By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
2:57 AM EDT, September 15, 2012
OAKLAND – The Orioles got what they expected Friday in their first meaningful late season game against the Oakland A’s in 20 years: A tense, low-scoring contest that the A’s ultimately won 3-2.
The Orioles also received something they weren’t anticipating and really don’t want: another serious injury.
Reserve designated hitter Wilson Betemit re-injured his right wrist during pre-game batting practice Friday and is headed back to Sarasota, Fla., on Sunday. He will meet with a hand specialist Monday. It’s the same intense pain in the same area that kept Betemit on the disabled list for nearly three weeks in August.
“I am really frustrated. I come back from the DL and I try to contribute to the team, but that happens,” said Betemit, who was visibly upset and spoke with red eyes after the game. “It’s frustrating. Everything is going good for us and this happens to me.”
Betemit, who had hit .261 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 102 games, will have to wait for an official prognosis, but it’s likely he is done for the season.
“Same symptoms as before. He’s really down,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “He battled his way back and was a big part of what we’ve done here. But I don’t like our prospects of getting him back.”
Betemit wasn’t the only Oriole who dealt with pain on Friday night. Shortstop J.J. Hardy appeared to jam his wrist on a dive in the hole, but he stayed in the game. Catcher Matt Wieters slammed his right hand against Yoenis Cespedes’ helmet while attempting to throw out a runner. Wieters later looked like he was hobbling slightly after beating out an infield single in the ninth.
After the game, Showalter said he wasn’t aware of any additional injuries besides Betemit.
He was more concerned with the four double plays that the Orioles hit into, effectively wasting a solid start by lefty Joe Saunders (2-2).
“It was a really good defensive game, but I think the four double plays really kicked us,” Showalter said.
The loss keeps the Orioles (81-63) in a first-place tie with the New York Yankees, who also lost Friday. The A’s (83-61) are two games up on the Orioles (and the Yankees) for the top wild-card spot.
There were no real surprises Friday. The Orioles had baseball’s best record in one-run games (27-7 heading into Friday), but the A’s have now won 14 of their last 17 decided by a run. Combined, the clubs have now played 72 one-run games.
“This is a good pitchers’ ballpark, especially at night. I knew runs were going to be at a premium,” said Saunders, who allowed three runs in six innings and is now 13-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts against the A’s. “It was just one of those nights that it came up short.”
Saunders allowed a two-run homer to Cespedes in the fourth and an RBI single by Jonny Gomes in the fifth. Otherwise, he kept the A’s offense off the board.
“The pitch to Cespedes I think was a good pitch, you’ve got to tip your cap on that one,” Saunders said. “He just muscled it up … I think that was the one thing that hurt me tonight.”
A’s lefty Tommy Milone lasted 6 1/3 innings giving up two runs, one earned, for his 13th win this season – an Oakland rookie record. He served up Chris Davis’ 26th homer and several times was on the ropes, but the Orioles ended three innings with double plays.
“You got guys on base, the last thing you want to do is ground into a double play. And you got to credit their pitchers, they made good pitches on us,” said Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds, who hit into one double play. “And that’s what’s frustrating when you ground into double plays, two outs, one at-bat. It kind of kills the rally.”
The game’s first run was scored by Manny Machado, who dashed home on an error by third baseman Josh Donaldson in the third. The 20-year-old Machado was just seven weeks old when the Orioles and A’s played on Sept. 2, 1992 – the last time the clubs had met this late in the season with records over .500.
The Orioles also had a chance in the ninth against A’s closer Grant Balfour. Wieters beat out an infield single to deep short to lead off the inning. Speedy rookie Xavier Avery pinch-ran for Wieters, and lefty Endy Chavez pinch-hit for right-hander Lew Ford.
The expectation was that Chavez was brought into bunt, but instead he swung away and struck out. Showalter said he had a thin bullpen after Thursday’s 14-inning win, with only closer Jim Johnson available for an inning, so he decided to play for more than one run.
“Our bullpen after yesterday, ties aren’t going to play well for us, we have about one more bullet down there and it’s Jimmy. So we approached it a little differently than we might have,” Showalter said. “I don’t follow the old adage about tie at home and [go for it] on the road, but where we were in the bullpen, extra-innings wouldn’t have played well with us. They got a full boat down there [in the A’s bullpen].”
Betemit normally would have been the pinch-hitter, but obviously was not available.
Reynolds flied out and then Avery attempted to steal with two outs and Davis batting, but he was thrown out to end a well-played game between two upstarts.
"Two good teams out there battling it out and we are both fighting for the same goal. And they made some good pitches, got us to square up some double plays,” Reynolds said. “It’s just frustrating. But it’s just one day and we will try to get tomorrow.”
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