The Orioles won their fifth straight series opener, defeating the Oakland Athletics, 7-3, on the back of four home runs and the best starting pitching performance they’ve received during the past week.
Center fielder Adam Jones had his second multihomer game of the season and Jonathan Schoop’s three-run homer off Oakland starter Chris Smith broke open a close game in the fifth inning. Welington Castllo added a solo homer in the eighth.
Left-hander Wade Miley ended the Orioles’ string of five straight games of starters failing to get beyond 5 1/3 innings. He allowed just two runs on five hits over six innings, recording his second quality start against Oakland this season.
The Orioles (61-64) had won each of their previous four series openers, but took none of those series. And with the Athletics (54-71) being the only team out of the Orioles’ nine remaining opponents not in the postseason race, they must take advantage of winning games they’re supposed to win.
With the win, the Orioles moved within 3 ½ games of the second AL wild-card spot with the Los Angeles Angels playing late on the West Coast.
“Still got to win ballgames,” Miley said. “We’ve got a tough road ahead of us, but at the same time, it’s in our hands, it’s in our court. It’s going to be fun.”
Jones leads charge
Jones matched his career high with four hits, fueling the offense with a pair of solo homers.
He opened the fourth inning with a blast to left field, taking a 2-1 fastball from Smith about eight rows up to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
Jones then hit the tail end of back-to-back homers in the fifth when he followed Schoop’s homer with his own, taking a 0-1 fastball from newly entered reliever Ryan Dull into the first row down the left-field line.
“To get the lead there, Adam’s done that a lot and it never goes unnoticed or unappreciated or assumed, more importantly,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Jon obviously had a big blow there, but can’t tell you how hard it is, as hard as Adam plays as long as he plays, and then mid-to-late August you’re still able to do that. That’s one of the things that separates Adam.”
It was Jones’ 12th multihomer and 21st four-hit game. Over his last 15 games, Jones is hitting .361 (22-for-61) with five homers and 11 RBIs.
“I always feel strong at this time of the season,” Jones said. “It’s called pacing myself. I’ve learned how to pace myself over the years.”
Schoop took sole possession of the team home-run lead with his 27th of the year, chasing Smith. The homer came after the Seth Smith drew a leadoff walk and Manny Machado reached on Chad Pinder’s throwing error.
Castillo’s 13th homer of the season came off reliever Michael Brady on a full-count fastball that landed in the Orioles bullpen beyond the left-center-field fence.
Down 1-0, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning but managed just one run out of it. Mark Trumbo’s fly ball to the warning track left field was just a few feet short of being a grand slam, and he settled for a sacrifice fly. Castillo then hit into a 4-6-3 double play, ending the inning.
Miley stops dubious Orioles streak
Orioles starters entered the night having allowed 25 runs in 23 innings over the past five games, but Miley stemmed that tide.
Despite walking four, Miley recorded six strikeouts, five of them swinging and three on sliders. As he did in his previous outing against Oakland 11 days ago, he worked right-handed hitters effectively inside with his slider, curveball and four-seam fastball.
“We really crowded them in again and kept with that game plan,” Miley said. “That was kind of the plan going in. Welly did a good job of staying and attacking there. I felt like I threw the ball pretty well. There were some walks in there, but pretty close misses. I’m a lot closer to the plate than I was a couple weeks ago. So that’s something positive to build on.”
Miley’s two best starts of the past month have come against Oakland. He held the A’s to one unearned run over seven innings Aug. 10 in Oakland, and in two starts against the A’s this year, Miley has a 1.38 ERA.
“Good,” Showalter said of Miley, who was working on an extra day of rest. “Sometimes, when you face a team second time, it’s kind of nice to know they know what he’s going to feature and still be able to be [effective].”
He received help from his defense early, especially when Schoop’s relay throw to the plate nabbed Pinder at home on Matt Chapman’s RBI double to right field.
Miley, who recorded six groundouts on seven outs in play, benefited from two key double plays. A leadoff walk in the third was erased on a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Khris Davis, and Miley escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth on getting a 4-3 double play ball again from Davis.
The only other run scored off Miley was on Jed Lowrie’s homer with one out in the sixth.
Brach struggles again
Right-handed reliever Brad Brach allowed a solo homer to A’s rookie center fielder Boog Powell — no relation to the former Orioles slugger — in the eighth inning, marking the third time in his past four outings Brach has allowed a run.
Powell sent a belt-high 2-2 fastball onto the flag court in right field, not far from where the Orioles’ Boog sells his famous barbecue, for his first major league home run.
Brach was the losing pitcher in Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels after he walked the leadoff batter to open the eighth inning in a tie game and that runner came around to score on a single by pinch hitter Cameron Maybin off Mychal Givens.
Powell’s blast was the first home run Brach had allowed in his past 13 outings — he also allowed a single to Matt Olson, but right fielder Craig Gentry threw Olson out attempting to stretch it into a double — and he’s now yielded four runs — three earned over his past four outings spanning four innings. Over that span, opponents are 7-for-17 with two walks against Brach.
Alec Asher put two on with two outs in the ninth, leading manager Showalter to turn to closer Zach Britton, who converted his 11th save in as many opportunities this season. Three of Britton's past five outings have been just one-third of an inning.