OAKLAND — Starter Chris Smith cruised into the fourth inning on Thursday having allowed just one run. Then, a pair of home runs came in rapid succession, sending his outing into a tailspin.
Smith surrendered five runs in six innings during the Oakland Athletics’ 7-2 defeat.
Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and first baseman Trey Mancini led off the fourth with back-to-back blasts. In the sixth, Mancini and designated hitter Mark Trumbo went back-to-back on consecutive pitches.
“In a blink of an eye they were gone,” Smith said.
Oakland’s lineup struggled to generate opportunities against Baltimore starter Wade Miley, who allowed just one run and struck out seven across seven innings. After Miley allowed the Athletics to score in the first inning, he allowed only five more base runners over the next six frames.
“When [Miley] is on, he mixes pitches … and keeps the barrel off the ball,” manager Bob Melvin said before the game. “He can be a tough guy to deal with.”
Smith wasn’t as effective.
Orioles shortstop Tim Beckham began the game with a triple off the center field wall. He scored on an RBI groundout from third baseman Manny Machado.
In the fourth inning, Mancini and Jones led off with home runs to give Baltimore a 3-1 lead. When Mancini went yard for a second time and Trumbo added one himself, the Orioles gained a four-run cushion.
“It was just the homers,” Melvin said. “When he left some balls up, they squared them up. Other than that, he kept guys off balance.”
Athletics pitchers have given up five or more runs in four straight games. With typically reliable starters Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman faltering in recent outings, pressure has mounted on back-of-the-rotation options like Smith.
That’s contributed to Oakland falling 15 games under .500 on Thursday.
“When you’re not getting the production [in the front of your rotation],” Melvin said, “you’re a little vulnerable.”
Oakland center fielder Rajai Davis provided a bright spot out of the leadoff spot. He manufactured the Athletics’ first run and went 1-for-4 — the eighth-straight game he’s reached base.
After singling in the first, Davis attempted to steal on consecutive pitches. Both times, shortstop Marcus Semien hit a foul ball. As Davis returned to the bag, he stopped to tie his shoe in the base path to catch his breath.
Moments later, he broke off first. Though Miley threw over, Davis reached second base safely, earning his 24th steal of the season. He advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly.
“You’re seeing what [Davis] can do,” Melvin said pregame. “[He’s] the one guy who really knows how to lead off and impact a game with his legs.”
Oakland scored in the eighth on a Jed Lowrie double but then failed to capitalize on a two-on, no outs situation.
The Athletics loaded the bases in the ninth and forced two pitching changes. But Lowrie couldn’t come through with two outs, flying out to right field to end the game.
“When you’re not scoring runs, it makes it tough on a guy like Smith,” Melvin said.
— Before the game, third baseman Matt Chapman threw up in the clubhouse. Though he remained in the starting lineup, he exited after three innings due to the sickness.
The rookie has hit seven home runs in 36 games this year and impressed with his defense at the hot corner. Melvin didn’t know whether he would be available to play on Friday.
— Lowrie went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. With a .273 average and .351 on-base percentage, he’s been one of the team’s most reliable players.
“He’s been really consistent the entire season,” Melvin said.