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Oakland A’s sweep bid falls short in Baltimore

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Oakland Athletics’ Stephen Piscotty gestures to the dugout after hitting a double against the San Francisco Giants at Oakland Coliseum on Friday, July 20, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Brett Anderson — making his return from the disabled list (ulnar nerve irritation) — failed to make it out of the fourth inning on Thursday against the Baltimore Orioles. That, combined with a late-game failure to cash in with the bases loaded prevented the Oakland Athletics from sweeping the season series from the Orioles.

It would be unrealistic to expect even a series sweep from a team operating with somewhat less than a full starting rotation, but given the opposite directions the A’s and Orioles have been trending in, Thursday’s 5-3 Oakland loss feels like a shocking loss.

After a pair of infield hits in the bottom of the first, Anderson allowed a two-run single to Tim Beckham. In the fourth, Anderson — who hadn’t pitched since Aug. 27 — allowed singles to Trey Mancini and Renato Nunez.

With one out, a wild pitch advanced both runners. Then, after fielding a tapper by John Andreoli, Anderson’s off-balance throw went wild. Though the play was ruled an infield hit, it was typical with the sort of fielding struggles that have long plagued the lefty. Breyvic Valera followed with an RBI single, and Anderson’s night was over.

Anderson left with a 4-1 deficit, as Stephen Piscotty hit an opposite-field homer in the second, and the bullpen managed to clean up the mess and keep things close. Shawn Kelley got out of the fourth, and Cory Gearrin, Ryan Dull and Yusmeiro Petit each followed with scoreless frames.

Unfortunately for the A’s (89-58), Dylan Bundy looked like an ace for Baltimore (42-104). He struck out eight over six innings without any walks, and he limited the Oakland bats to six hits. Nick Martini cut the deficit to two with a fifth-inning RBI single, but the 25-year old hurler avoided any further damage. A pair of two-out hits by Khris Davis and Matt Olson had the visitors knocking on the door in the sixth, but Bundy struck out Piscotty with his final pitch of the night.

Miguel Castro got pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to ground into a double play to end the seventh, but the A’s did find an opportunity in the eighth as Ramon Laureano and Matt Chapman led off the inning with singles. Lefty Paul Fry came in for Castro, and though he froze Jed Lowrie with a pitch on the corner, he walked both Davis and Olson to bring in a run. Mychal Givens came in to try to bail out the rest of the Orioles bullpen, and he struck out Piscotty, then got Marcus Semien to fly out to end the inning.

Jace Peterson brought in an insurance run with an opposite-field double off Jeurys Familia in the bottom of the eighth, scoring Beckham from first as Martini failed to dig the ball out in the corner. Givens allowed a leadoff walk to Martini in the ninth but took care of the A’s from there, with Valera making a terrific sliding catch for the second out and Chapman grounding out to end the game.

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