Throwing a game away — literally — doesn't usually sit well with teams, especially when they are attempting to establish themselves as consistent winners.
So when the
For the most part, that was not the case — not after the Orioles (15-10) took three of four in their personal pain chamber, the Oakland Coliseum, to kick off a brutal, three-city, 11-game West Coast swing.
“Real proud of how we played here in Oakland,” Orioles manager
The Orioles were two outs in the ninth away from just their second four-game sweep of the Oakland A’s — the other was at
But budding superstar Yoenis Cespedes, who was in his first game back from the disabled list with a strained muscle in his hand, lifted a low changeup from reliever
“He took the wind out of our sails,” said Orioles first baseman
Normally, the left-handed Matusz would not be pitching in such a situation, especially against a right-handed slugger such as Cespedes.
"It's a little different chain when you need to give Jim a day. But we definitely needed to do that. That was a very easy decision. The tough decision was pitching him [Saturday] afternoon," Showalter said. "You just don't do those things. Because when [Johnson] is gone, you kind of see. You can't pitch six out of seven days, you just can't do it. I'm not going to do it. You pay the price."
Showalter had few other options besides Matusz: Darren O’Day had already pitched,
Strop picked up a key strikeout against Oriole killer
And that's when things got a little crazy.
The next batter,
With runners on first and second, the A’s bunted again. This time
His throw to shortstop
Just your traditional, walkoff sac bunt/error.
"We were trying to make the plays and unfortunately we didn't complete it, bad execution. The balls were right there, just bad throws. That happens," Strop said. "It's tough. It's a tough one to swallow because the guys were hitting the ball pretty well, playing so hard."
Afterward, Showalter lauded Strop and Machado for trying to make the aggressive play, something the club practiced continually in
"I applaud both of them. They are both out if [the throws are made]," Showalter said. "I tell the guys all the time, you feel something, go for it. I would have done the same thing. I am proud they went for it."
Hardy pointed the blame at himself for not getting to the base immediately.
"That was the play all along," Hardy said. "Manny knows when he picks up the ball that he is throwing it to third base and I think I was just a little bit late there and that's why I got handcuffed."
And the 20-year-old Machado wasn't exactly glossing over his rushed throw.
"Do or die. That was the right play. It didn't turn out the way we wanted it to," Machado said. "It's obviously frustrating."
The Orioles looked like they were going to cruise to the sweep when they scored four runs in the fourth, sending eight batters to the plate against
McLouth triggered the rally with a leadoff single — one of his four hits and four runs scored. He has now reached base in 22 of his last 36 plate appearances. Machado also turned in his first four-hit game of his career while scoring twice and driving in two runs.
In the four-game series, the typical top five in the Orioles’ lineup — McLouth, Machado,
"Offensively, as a team overall, we are doing great," Machado said. "We are executing when we need it."
The starting pitching also was dominant again — at least initially.
"That's about as good as you see a guy pitch for [five innings]," Showalter said. "It just kind of left him there and he lost a little feel. But we had some good opportunities. He gave us a good chance to win today and you know they were clicking on all cylinders with Cespedes back and hungry. You knew it was going to be tough to beat them today regardless of what kind of lead you might have."
The 40 pitches in the sixth were the most thrown by an Oriole in one inning this season, and it ruined the Orioles' shot of having four consecutive quality starts. Of the 17 runs Gonzalez has allowed this year, eight have come in the sixth.
"I think it just happens," he said. "I got a little bit tired, but you can't go with that. I do what I had to do and kept the team in the ballgame."
Ultimately, though, the Orioles still took three of four from the A's — and that wasn't lost on them.