OAKLAND, CALIF. — The Orioles were hoping that a change of scenery would help them pull out of another long losing streak, but even a change of strategy at the spacious Oakland Coliseum did not do the trick.
They played small ball and scored two runs on sacrifice bunts in the second inning, but the offense fizzled after that and the Athletics took advantage of some sloppy defense to score a 3-2 victory and send the Orioles to their sixth straight defeat.
Oakland starting pitcher Mike Fiers, who was not charged with an earned run during that early O’s rally because the A’s played some ugly defense of their own, didn’t leave anything to chance after that. He retired 17 batters in a row from the second to the seventh inning on the way to his seventh win.
When it was over, all the O’s could do was look back at a series of misplays that added to long list of teachable moments that have not — as yet — led to an improvement in either fundamentals or results.
The first was the inexplicable decision by Trey Mancini and Chance Sisco to attempt a double steal with two outs in the first inning, which ended with Sisco getting thrown out at second base and manager Brandon Hyde lecturing both of them when they returned to the dugout.
Sisco was also right in the middle of an unfortunate A’s rally in the third inning that negated the Orioles’ opportunistic two-run bunt-fest in the second. He rushed a throw on a home-to-first double-play attempt that bounced past first baseman Chris Davis and ended up in right field, allowing two runs to score and the A’s to take a one-run lead that would hold up the rest of the way.
"Yeah, it was just a little bit like the double steal,” Hyde said. “I think we just tried to make something happen instead of letting the game come to us and understanding the speed of the game. He just tried to force it a little bit.”
Still, that early O’s rally was a display of initiative that obviously caught the A’s by surprise. Designated hitter Pedro Severino opened the inning with a single off Fiers and Rio Ruiz followed with a perfect bunt down the third-base line.
And that’s when things got a little weird.
Third baseman Matt Chapman charged the Ruiz bunt and threw the ball so far down the right-field line that Severino scored from first base and Ruiz sprinted all the way to third. Two pitches later, Hanser Alberto laid another perfect bunt down the third-base line and Ruiz scored to give the O’s a 2-1 lead.
If that seemed like a couple of pennies from heaven for the struggling Orioles, they threw them right back in the bottom of the third inning.
“They made a mistake, we capitalized,” Hyde said. “We made a mistake, they capitalized. We've just got to play a little bit cleaner."
Starting pitcher Andrew Cashner returned to the mound after a short layoff with a blister on his right middle finger and struggled through the first three innings. He allowed the only earned run of the game on doubles by Marcus Semien and Matt Olson in the first and the two unearned runs in the third, then settled down nicely and worked through six.
“Just thought I had a good fastball,’’ Cashner said. “I didn’t really think my offspeed was very good. I thought as the game went on my changeup came along. Slider wasn’t good. I threw a couple of good ones, but I think just fastball command top and bottom of the zone.”
Jimmy Yacabonis followed him to the mound and pitched a pair of scoreless innings that were described by both Cashner and Hyde as his best outing of the season.
Fiers worked 6 2/3 innings and allowed just three hits to improve his record to 7-3 and drop his ERA to 4.28.
"Mike’s a good pitcher,” Hyde said. “He's done it for a long time. He's an innings eater. He really knows how to locate. He can pitch in with his fastball. Up with his fastball. He's got a nice hook, changeup. I've seen him do that a lot of times.”
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The series continues on Tuesday with Orioles right-hander Gabriel Ynoa (0-3) facing A’s left-hander Brett Anderson (6-4).