Donaldson boosts MVP case in A’s 60th win

O.CO COLISEUM — Oakland entered the All-Star break with six straight wins at home. Their first game back nearly ended the streak.

But in another bit of walk-off excellence — delivered by third baseman Josh Donaldson — the A’s roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles Friday night by a score of 5-4.

A’s Manager Bob Melvin summed up the ending best, grinning as he referenced a skirmish during the last time the two clubs met:

“There’s a little irony involved. As the game started, I don’t think anyone was thinking about that.”

In early June, Orioles slugger Manny Machado and Donaldson had words after Donaldson applied a hard tag for a third out. Machado thought Donaldson tagged him too aggressively, and launched a bat in Donaldson’s direction the next day.

Since that series, Donaldson had been slowing down. Melvin said that he seems to be bouncing back:

“Any time you hit a walk-off home run, whether it’s the first half or second or whatever. I think the key there was he wasn’t trying to do too much.”

Orioles closer Zach Britton took the blown save and the loss, though Donaldson called him the best left-handed sinkerball pitcher in baseball.

A look at the box score might indicate that A’s starter Jeff Samardzija was off his game, but that wouldn’t be the case. It was essentially two pitches that put four runs on the board for Baltimore. Well, there were also two hit batters.

Samardzija allowed two home runs along with six hits, striking out only four in seven innings. Though Baltimore got the best of Samardzija, they had some backing on the mound.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman (6-2/3 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 6 K) had Oakland’s number the whole night. Only five A’s batters reached base against him, and no A’s batter had a worse night that second baseman Andy Parino, who struck out three times.

Oakland’s offense wasn’t totally dead though, as catcher Derek Norris hit his ninth homer of the year in the fifth inning. It was a solo shot to left, a no-doubter that helped the A’s knot the score at 2-2.

But  Orioles third baseman Machado — amid a flurry of boos — answered with a two-run line-drive home run that left a bitter taste in A’s fans’ beer.

The shot would make many casual baseball fans think the night was over. But this the A’s. And they play anything but casual baseball.

Enter Melvin, and his sick sense of humor for the media after the game:

“Re-writing some game stories, guys?”

Friday night was the seventh walk off win of the season for Oakland, so Melvin can get his kicks. But there’s still a catch.

Samardzija is winless in 10 night starts this season, actually winless in 12 straight night starts dating back to last season. While it’s probably coincidental — and he played for the Cubs both years — it’s something the team might follow more closely.

Either way, Samardzija is fine with it. He’s finally playing on a team that wins even when they lose, depending on when the television was turned off. Samardzija said of Donaldson:

“You can see as the season goes on, as his career goes on, (Donaldson) is going to be the best in big situations. He loves those spots, and just being here for two weeks, I can tell that. He gets those big eyes, and he gets excited. That’s the guy you want in that situation.”

The MVP chants were flowing throughout the crowd, then came a cheer when Yoenis Cespedes came in on the right flank and smacked Donaldson in his mug with the customary cream pie.

The A’s continue their three-game weekend series against Baltimore with a 6:00 p.m. start Saturday evening.

Notes

The A’s have won 12 of their last 13 home games, and nine of their last 12 games. … Friday’s win guarantees at least a season tie with Baltimore, and the A’s have lost just one season series — 2013 — to Baltimore in the last 16 seasons. … Manny Machado has reached base in the last 17 games, a career high.


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