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Mike Fiers leads Oakland Athletics to fifth win in a row

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Oakland Athletics’ Matt Chapman follows through on a swing against the Giants at AT&T Park on Friday, July 13, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The Oakland Athletics’ bats went oddly quiet against the worst team in the major leagues on Tuesday, but yet another dominant performance by Mike Fiers led the A’s to a 3-2 win in the series opener against the Baltimore Orioles.

A three-run top of the third inning made for enough offense to back Fiers, who improved to 5-0 in an A’s uniform. Oakland (88-57) has won all seven of his starts.

Fiers allowed just four hits and a walk over six innings while striking out seven. The only blemish came on a Jonathan Villar solo homer in the bottom of the sixth. Fiers threw just 84 pitches, but with cracks starting to show during the third time through the order, manager Bob Melvin turned to the bullpen for the final three innings.

Having struggled over four consecutive outings, Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect seventh with a pair of strikeouts. Third baseman Matt Chapman made an impressive throw on the run to rob former teammate Renato Nunez to end the inning. Lou Trivino allowed a leadoff single in the eighth to Breyvic Valera, who scored on a two-out Villar single, but Ramon Laureano made a diving catch to rob Trey Mancini and end the inning. With Villar running on the pitch, Mancini could have tied the game if not for the rookie center fielder’s defensive expertise.

Even with Monday off, Blake Treinen had pitched in all three games of the weekend series against the Texas Rangers, so he got Tuesday off, as well. Jeurys Familia closed the game out for his first Oakland save, striking out Joey Rickard to end the game.

It looked like a promising night for the A’s offense when Baltimore (41-103) lost starter Alex Cobb — who has tormented Oakland for years — after just two innings thanks to a blister. Mike Wright Jr. took over and immediately struggled with command, walking Jonathan Lucroy and allowing a run-scoring double to Chapman, his 21st since the All-Star Break. After a Jed Lowrie walk, Chapman scored on a laser beam single by Khris Davis. A line-drive single by Stephen Piscotty scored Lowrie — a fellow Stanford product — and extended his hitting streak to 12.

Though the A’s would go quietly against Wright for the next two innings and muster very little against the combination of Yefry Ramirez and Mychal Givens, they would have a chance in the eighth against hard-throwing lefty Tanner Scott.

Lowrie started the inning with an infield hit and went to third on Piscotty’s two-out double — a hit that put him back in the team lead for doubles with 39, one ahead of Chapman and three ahead of Lowrie. Scott would get Marcus Semien to ground out to third to escape the jam, but the combination of the A’s bullpen and defense ensured a fifth consecutive win as they have continued to handle last-place teams and other non-contending clubs.

Since the All-Star Break, Oakland is 9-1 against the Rangers, and the A’s have won four of their last six meetings with the Los Angeles Angels. They swept the season series against the fourth-place Toronto Blue Jays and fourth-place Detroit Tigers and now sit at 4-0 against the Orioles. They also swept the interleague season series with the last-place San Diego Padres.

Oakland is also now 19-8 against the AL East, having also won the season series with the Boston Red Sox and splitting with the New York Yankees. The team owns a 1-3 mark against the Tampa Bay Rays, but will have a chance to improve on that this weekend in a clash of two of the league’s hottest clubs.

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