OAKLAND, Calif. — The recent numbers aren't encouraging, but the Orioles believe right-hander Miguel Gonzalez's uneven performances recently are not a concern despite another abbreviated outing in Tuesday's 5-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
Gonzalez lasted just 5 1/3 innings, the seventh time in nine starts that the 31-year-old righty has exited before completing six innings. He was charged with three runs on five hits and three walks in the loss.
Essentially, it didn't matter much what Gonzalez did because the Orioles didn't score once against rookie Chris Bassitt and two relievers.
"I know that's the [story] line, but I thought Miguel pitched pretty well tonight, all things considered. We just didn't score any runs," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He could have come out of that with one or two runs [allowed], and we score four or five and we're talking about a whole different subject."
It was the seventh time this season the Orioles have been shut out, and the first since July 3 at the Chicago White Sox. The A's have registered 14 shutouts this year.
"We just need to score runs. If we go up there and give him a couple-run cushion like we did last night with Tyler [Wilson], it allows him to breathe," said center fielder Adam Jones said. "We couldn't muster anything."
The Orioles (54-52) are now one game behind the rival Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild card in the American League and fell to third place in the AL East, 6½ games behind the New York Yankees. The Blue Jays (56-52) moved into second place in the East.
The Orioles and A's (48-60) were locked into a scoreless tie until the bottom of the fifth when a couple hits and one errant bounce led to Oakland's first run.
Gonzalez, who allowed five runs and didn't get out of the fourth in his previous start versus the Detroit Tigers, struggled with his command after a perfect first inning.
Still, he successfully escaped jams until the fifth when Eric Sogard doubled with one out and Billy Burns followed with a two-out single up the middle.
Jones grabbed the roller and released a throw home that likely would have gotten Sogard, but the ball hit the back of the pitcher's mound and ricocheted toward the plate. Catcher Matt Wieters had to leap just to keep the ball from bouncing over his head.
"Got me mad. Make a better throw," Jones said. "Make a better throw and he's out by a lot. As soon as I saw that throw, I said, 'Oh man.'"
Gonzalez struck out Stephen Vogt to get out of the fifth, but more trouble awaited him in the sixth. Billy Butler doubled to lead off the inning and Brett Lawrie tripled him home for a 2-0 A's lead. That hit chased Gonzalez (9-8), who lost consecutive starts for the first time this season.
"You're not always going to be 100 percent and you've got to minimize damage when you get that opportunity and I haven't been able to do that," Gonzalez said. "But we're going to keep working hard to be able to do it."
In his past nine starts, Gonzalez has a 5.48 ERA and allowed 59 hits and 14 walks in 46 innings. But Wieters, for one, isn't worried about Gonzalez, one of the club's more consistent starters over the past few years.
"It's in there and he still gives us a chance to win," Wieters said. "He gave us a chance to win tonight; their guy was good. If we don't score any runs, it doesn't matter how good Gonzo pitches. You know we're not going to win that game."
Righty reliever Chaz Roe entered with Lawrie on third and one out in the sixth. Roe struck out his first batter before Showalter decided to walk the lefty Sogard to face right-hander Marcus Semien. Showalter was playing the percentages – righties entered the day hitting just .209 versus Roe while lefties had batted .281 – but it caught Sogard off-guard; he hadn't been intentionally walked since 2013.
The move backfired when Semien hit a Roe slider over the left-field wall for a three-run homer and a 5-0 lead.
"Usually Chaz has a real good breaking ball to use when he is ahead in the count," Showalter said. "And he got a breaking ball where I don't think he has gotten one there all year."
Wieters said in retrospect he would have called for a sinker instead of Roe's often-nasty slider.
"He had a really good sinker tonight," Wieters said. "But his slider is always good. And one just kind of hung up there a little bit for him."
The Orioles offense, which had scored six or more runs in four of its previous five games, never solved Bassitt through seven scoreless innings.
The 26-year-old, whom the A's acquired from the Chicago White Sox last December with Semien and two others in the Jeff Samardzija deal, allowed five hits and two walks while striking out a career-high seven batters. He fanned the final batter he faced, Travis Snider, on a darting 96-mph fastball.
It was the second career victory for Bassitt (1-4) and first while pitching for Oakland. In his previous five starts, Bassitt had received a total of five runs of support in 30 innings.
"I thought the game was how well their guy pitched," Showalter said. "That's kind of what you get for a guy like Samardzija."