The Orioles held back the tide as long as they could Wednesday, but the Oakland A’s were not going to be denied. They have been hammering O’s pitching since early April and they closed the season series with an 8-3 victory at the Oakland Coliseum.
It was the eighth straight loss for the Orioles and — while it didn’t carry the sting of Tuesday night’s ugly 14-run blowout — it was another frustrating display of sub-par relief pitching against a team that can feast on it.
“That’s a playoff-tested offense,’’ said manager Brandon Hyde. “They’re more of a veteran group. They’re primarily right-handed with Olson, a lefty who can do a lot of damage. They’re professional hitters and they’re really good, and that’s why they’re a postseason team.”
The A’s won six of the seven games between the two teams and scored eight runs or more in five of the six wins. Since losing the first game of a four-game April series at Camden Yards, they have outscored the O’s 58-17.
For five innings, it looked like the finale of the three-game series might add another unsightly wrinkle to the Orioles miserable June. Oakland starter Chris Bassitt carried a no-hit bid into the sixth, before Jonathan Villar finally broke it up with a leadoff single.
To that point, the Orioles had managed only two base runners and one of them didn’t even get to first base. Bassitt hit first baseman Trey Mancini with a pitch and Mancini had to leave the game with a painfully bruised left elbow.
Thankfully for the Orioles, that was all it was, considering the way Mancini reacted at the plate and was holding his arm as he exited the field. The club certainly could not afford to lose its top hitter and presumptive All-Star for an extended period.
The Orioles already had suffered enough during their embarrassing 16-2 loss the night before, and halfway through Wednesday’s game they were facing the possibility of further embarrassment.
Meanwhile, the Orioles “opener” strategy worked pretty well. Jimmy Yacabonis started the game with two scoreless innings and rookie Josh Rogers came on to retire eight straight batters before the A’s offense finally got something going in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Rogers got the first two outs of that inning, but allowed a double to A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty and plunked infielder Chad Pinder with a pitch to set the table for No. 9 hitter Josh Phegley, who launched a three-run home run that broke the scoreless tie.
“Yak did a nice job,’’ Hyde said. “Worked out of trouble in the first and got two good innings out of him. Josh threw two good innings and just hung a slider 0-2, which we have done a lot. But, we gave the ball to our bullpen guys with a chance to win and didn’t do it.”
The Orioles answered in their next at-bat, but it wasn’t exactly a resounding rally. Villar opened the sixth with their first hit and Bassitt loaded the bases with a pair or one-out walks before Renato Núñez beat out an infield hit to score the first O’s run.
That was it for Bassitt, but not the Orioles. Reliever Ryan Buchter came on to face Rio Ruiz and walked him to force home another run and usher the O’s back into the game, albeit temporarily.
“We got into the sixth inning with our high-leverage guys ready to pitch out of the pen in a one-run game,’’ Hyde said.
Like Tuesday night, it was a decent baseball game until it reached a certain point and then the wheels came flying off. The A’s scored a run in the sixth and broke the game open with a four-run rally in the seventh, sending the Orioles off to begin a four-game series against the Mariners still looking for their first win in more than a week.
This time, it was right-hander Shawn Armstrong who took his lumps. He had allowed just three earned runs in 17 appearances as an Oriole, but gave up for earned runs in one-plus innings to let the game get out of hand.
Of course it wasn’t just the bullpen. The Orioles scored just seven runs and totaled 13 hits in the three-game series.
“We’ve got to turn the page,’’ Mancini said. “That was just not a great showing by us at all. And, we’ve got to find a way to come out and play a little crisper, a little better. And hopefully we can do that in Seattle.”