The Baltimore Orioles thoroughly outplayed the Oakland Athletics while taking three of four on the road four months ago. Another dominant performance against Oakland could catapult them into the driver's seat for a wild-card spot.
Baltimore welcomes the Athletics, who expect to have the newly acquired Kurt Suzuki for the opener of a three-game set Friday night.
The Orioles (71-55) are three games behind the A's (71-55) for the second wild-card spot, but neither has played particularly well lately. Baltimore has lost six of nine while its bullpen continues to struggle, while the A's seek better situational hitting after dropping five of nine.
The Orioles managed to avoid a sweep with a 4-2 home victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday as Chris Davis hit his major league-leading 46th home run. Manager Buck Showalter elected not to use closer Jim Johnson after he had squandered three straight save opportunities and allowed three hits in a non-save situation in Tuesday's loss. Tommy Hunter instead recorded his fourth save.
"Obviously team goals come before individual goals," said Davis, batting .353 with six home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 14 games. "I'm happy to be swinging the bat well, I'm even happier to get the win."
The All-Star homered twice as the Orioles outscored the A's 28-14 in taking three of four in Oakland from April 25-28. Baltimore hit .315 in the series and .349 with runners in scoring position, and Nate McLouth , Manny Machado and Adam Jones were a combined 24 for 53 (.453) with 11 RBIs.
Oakland has batted .131 with runners in scoring position in its last nine games, including one extra-base hit and 15 strikeouts. The Athletics were 1 for 9 in such situations in a 5-3 home loss to Seattle on Wednesday, with two runs coming on solo homers from Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss .
"We continually address it," manager Bob Melvin said. "Sometimes I think we do it too much to where we put too much pressure on guys. But it comes to a point where you just have to step up."
The injuries are also beginning to pile up for the A's, with Josh Reddick 's status uncertain after he sprained his right wrist on a diving catch in the seventh inning Wednesday. Catcher Derek Norris didn't play after breaking a toe Tuesday, and outfielder Seth Smith missed a second consecutive game.
To help the injury situation at catcher, the A's acquired Suzuki from Washington on Friday, bringing back a former fan favorite just more than a year after trading him away.
Suzuki, selected by the A's in the second round of the 2004 amateur draft, spent parts of the past two seasons with Washington after six in Oakland. He's batting .222 with three homers and 25 RBIs in 79 games.
Both scheduled starters have struggled in limited action against each other's teams. Baltimore's Bud Norris (9-10, 3.93 ERA) has gone 3-1 with a 3.91 ERA in five games - four starts - since being acquired from Houston, but went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA in three starts against Oakland with the Astros this season.
Dan Straily (6-7, 4.22) gave up four runs over 4 2-3 innings of a 9-5 loss to Baltimore on Sept. 16. He's 0-5 over his last six starts despite a 4.09 ERA, receiving a total of three runs of support.
Davis is 0 for 1 with two walks against Straily. He's hit .396 with five homers and 14 RBIs in his last 15 contests versus Oakland.
|August 14, 2013||Bartolo Colon||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|August 11, 2013||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Left wrist|
|July 25, 2013||John Jaso||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 20, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|June 29, 2013||Jarrod Parker||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring cramp|
|June 20, 2013||Derek Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - groin injury|
|August 16, 2013||Francisco Rodriguez||Day-to-Day||Strained right groin|
|July 29, 2013||Jason Hammel||15-Day DL||Right forearm tenderness|
|July 14, 2013||Nolan Reimold||60-Day DL||Nerve inflammation in cervical spine|
|June 20, 2013||Steve Pearce||15-Day DL||Left wrist tendinitis|
|June 20, 2013||Steve Pearce||15-Day DL||Left wrist tendinitis|
|June 17, 2013||Jason Hammel||Day-to-Day||Illness|
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Brian Roberts had to endure a tremendous amount of hardship waiting for the chance to contribute to a playoff run.
Now, finally, it all seems worth it.
Roberts hit a grand slam, Adam Jones homered and had three RBIs, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Oakland Athletics 9-7 Friday night to gain ground in the wild-card race.
It's been a grind for the 35-year-old Roberts over the past few years. He's had to deal with one injury after another, from a serious concussion to a groin strain to hip surgery. He was powerless to do anything but watch last year as the Orioles made their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years.
This season, after another bout with injuries, Roberts is finally playing the role he longed for since launching his major league career in 2001.
"It's fun. This is what we all play for," he said. "You want to be in the race in August and September, and I haven't had a whole lot of opportunities to do that in my career. Unfortunately missed the fun last year. So to be able to contribute and be a part of it and just be one of the 25 guys is awesome."
Roberts and Jones connected in a six-run fourth inning that put Baltimore up 6-3. After Oakland rallied to take the lead, Jones drove in the go-ahead run during a three-run seventh.
The victory moved the Orioles past Cleveland into third place in the wild-card hunt. Tampa Bay is on top and Baltimore now stands two games behind Oakland. The top two teams make the playoffs.
Making his fifth start for Baltimore since coming in a trade with Houston, Bud Norris yielded seven runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings. In four appearances against Oakland this season, he's 0-3 with a 9.35 ERA.
"This is about the team battling back," Norris said. "They picked me up. To win that one, the first game of the series, is huge."
Coco Crisp homered, had a career-high tying four hits and scored three runs for the A's, who have lost four of six and are 15-17 since the All-Star break.
"We're going to go out there and play as hard as we can, and if we end up making it to the playoffs that would be fantastic," Crisp said. "If not, we knew we gave it our best shot and that's what everyone in here is doing right now."
In the Baltimore seventh, Jesse Chavez walked Nate McLouth and was replaced by Ryan Cook (5-3). A single by Manny Machado put runners at the corners, and McLouth scored when second baseman Eric Sogard misplayed a grounder by Chris Davis . Jones followed with a run-scoring groundout and Nick Markakis capped the uprising with an RBI single.
Francisco Rodriguez (2-0) got the win and Jim Johnson , the fourth Baltimore reliever, worked a perfect ninth for his 40th save. He had blown his previous three attempts.
"You could see the look in his eye," Roberts said. "I thought tonight he came out really aggressive. He threw the ball incredible. We all looked at each other and were like, `Whoa. This is almost a different guy."'
The victory assured the Orioles their first season series win over Oakland since 1998. They've won four of five with two to play.
A's starter Dan Straily allowed six runs, four hits and four walks in 3 1-3 innings. Although he walked off the mound with the A's trailing 6-3, the right-hander avoided losing his sixth straight decision when Oakland took the lead with a four-run fifth.
Crisp led off the fifth with a single and scored on a double by Jed Lowrie , who came home on a single by Josh Donaldson . Following a double play, two walks and a single loaded the bases and ended Norris' night. Troy Patton then gave up a two-run single to Sogard.
Oakland got a first-inning run when Crisp led off with a single and scored on a two-out single by Brandon Moss .
Crisp and Moss hit solo shots to right field in the third, even though Norris struck out the side.
At that point, the A's were sailing. Then came the Baltimore fourth inning.
Davis drew a walk and Jones followed with an opposite-field drive to right. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Roberts, who hit a high fly to right that plopped onto the flag court beyond the 25-foot scoreboard for his sixth career grand slam, the first since 2009.
NOTES: Straily has allowed 11 homers in his last 11 starts . ... The A's acquired C Kurt Suzuki in a trade with Washington. Suzuki fills the void left by the absence of John Jaso (concussion) and Derek Norris (broken toe). ... Baltimore sold minor league pitcher Freddy Garcia to Atlanta. ... Oakland RF Josh Reddick (wrist) took full batting practice Friday and could return Saturday. ... A's OF Seth Smith was back in the lineup for the first time in almost a week because of an astigmatism.