Carroll County Times

Orioles take series against Athletics

BALTIMORE - Barring a September to remember, the Baltimore Orioles' postseason hopes likely lie with a wild-card berth.
So Sunday's series finale against Oakland, one of three teams ahead of Baltimore in the wild-card standings, carried a bit of importance. And the Orioles sent the Athletics home in their final regular-season matchup after a 10-3 win before 33,820 at Camden Yards, a victory that moved them a little closer to a playoff spot.
Not that Baltimore can't make a run at the AL East title, and the Orioles will certainly have their chance to take down teams in front of them over the next month. A wild-card spot seems the simpler route, and the gap narrowed a bit thanks to the weekend series win over the A's.
The term "stretch run" is about to become quite popular around Baltimore.
"Trust me, it's been on," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Some people look at the schedule and go, 'Hmm.' I haven't read it or listened to it because I choose not to. You can look at that as a positive or a negative. We're looking at it as a positive.
"If we're going to do this, it's right there, staring you in the face every night. Going into the season, it's about September. You grind like hell for February, March, April, May, June, July and August to have a chance to roll the dice the last five weeks, and that's where we are."
The Orioles (70-59) jumped on Oakland starter Sonny Gray early and overcame a shaky start from Scott Feldman thanks to 13 hits and three home runs. But it wasn't just the long ball - Baltimore scored three times on sacrifice flies for the first time since April 26, 2011, and racked up opposite-field hits to keep innings alive.
"I think maybe if there is something you can criticize about us, we've maybe struggled at times with runners at third base and less than two outs getting that guy in," said left fielder Nate McLouth. "Today, to have three sac flies, they may not look pretty but they are effective and they are very important."
McLouth had a double and a two-run homer as part of Baltimore's offense surge. Right fielder Nick Markakis added a solo shot, as did shortstop J.J. Hardy, and it allowed Feldman (4-3) to get by without having good command.
Feldman allowed only one run in five innings but walked four and hit a batter. He struck out four and threw in a balk for good measure.
"It wasn't the prettiest outing. It was a battle from the get-go," Feldman said. "The offense swung the bats great. Any time you get a win and keep the damage off the board, you have to feel good about it."
Brian Roberts and Chris Davis had RBI singles in the second inning, and Manny Machado added a sac fly, and the Orioles led 5-1.
Hardy, who went 3 for 4 and scored three runs, led off the sixth inning with his 23rd homer of the year, and McLouth's blast came with two outs in the eighth and put the Orioles up 10-3.
Machado, Davis, and Adam Jones had consecutive singles with one out in the first, and Jones' flare to right scored Machado and got Davis to third. Matt Wieters followed with a deep fly to center, and Davis scored to make it 2-1.
Feldman needed 29 pitches to get out of the first inning. Feldman opened the frame with a walk and a balk, and couldn't find the strike zone. Alberto Callaspo's two-out bloop single to right scored Coco Crisp and the Athletics led 1-0.
Oakland's lead didn't last long, and Gray (1-2) failed to get out of the fourth inning in giving up six runs on eight hits.
"We did a lot of things good today, especially after that first inning, where they went up 1-0," McLouth said. "It was kind of a long inning, Feldman couldn't really find a rhythm. It was nice to come out and score a couple there in the bottom of the first ... Couple of aggressive first-to-thirds there and it was nice to get those runs right back."
The Athletics fell to 72-57 and remain the second wild-card team behind Tampa Bay, with Cleveland trailing by 1.5 games and Baltimore by 2. The Orioles head to division-leading Boston for another pivotal three-game series that starts Tuesday, followed by sets in New York and Cleveland.
Like Showalter said, it's on.
"I'll admit - coming in today, there's not many days when I go, 'We need to play well today and see if we can get a 'W,' " he said. "This was one of those days."
Reach Pat Stoetzer at 410-857-7894 or