Struggling A’s can’t crack Chen

OAKLAND COLISEUM — It’s been a tough week to be an Oakland A’s fan.

On Friday night, it got even tougher.

Despite solid pitching from starter Tommy Milone, his counterpart — Orioles starter Wei-Yen Chen — was even better, as the A’s fell Friday night to the Baltimore Orioles 3-0.

Both Milone and Chen kept the game tight from the first inning on.

Despite getting six men on base over the first six innings – one walk, four hits, one error – Baltimore was unable to bring home an earned run against Milone.

However, Chen was even more impenetrable. Over the course of his eight innings, he allowed just two hits and two walks. He’d strike out five on his way to shutting down Oakland’s offense.

Orioles designated hitter Steve Pearce said:

“It was a tough game. Milone was pitching well, Chen was pitching great. You almost had that sense that whoever scored first was probably going to [win], because both pitchers were pitching great.”

Baltimore was able to capitalize on A’s mistakes in the seventh inning and get the first run of the game on the board.

J.J. Hardy singled to lead off the inning but was able to advance to 2nd base on an error by Josh Reddick in right field. The error proved to be costly, as two batters later Pearce singled, bringing home Hardy.

Though the run was unearned, it was enough to knock Milone out of the game and bring in Sean Doolittle to keep the A’s in the game.

Despite being the tough-luck loser, Milone turned in more than a quality start. He allowed only six hits, one walk, and no earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. Manager Bob Melvin sang his praises after the game:

A’s manager Bob Melvin

“We always feel good when Tommy takes the mound. Tonight, when you struggle to get hits, let alone score runs, he keeps you in the game. … He knows as the game goes along, there’s a feel to games. And he knew that he couldn’t give much up, and he didn’t.”

Doolittle was perfect in getting the final out of the seventh and all three in the eighth. He struck out three and threw 16 of his 19 pitches for strikes.

Most importantly, he kept the score just 1-0 Baltimore going into the 9th. But the Orioles took advantage of Oakland’s miscues in the top of the 9th to add some insurance runs.

With Ryan Cook on the mound, Hardy once again started the rally, singling with one out. Cook then issued back-to-back walks to Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce, with Pearce winning the battle in the 12-pitch at-bat.

Alexi Casilla then hit a routine ground ball to second base that bounced off of Jed Lowrie’s glove, leading to another Athletics error and another Orioles (unearned) run.

A frustrated Melvin admitted:

“When you’re in close games like that, defensive miscues end up really costing you. … To an extent, that’s frustrating, it’s maddening to us….when you’re in close games, you have to play flawless defense.”

With the bases still loaded, Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly to left field, bringing home Baltimore’s final run.

Jim Johnson got the save for the Orioles. He’s now nine-for-nine on save attempts on the season.

The A’s have now lost three in a row and seven of their last eight games. They’re 4-9 since their nine-game winning streak earlier in the season.

A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie

“I think it’s just one of those ruts in the season that the quicker you get out of it, the better you’re going to be in the end.”

They’ll attempt to get back in the win column and at least split this four-game series with Baltimore Saturday at 1:05 p.m when A.J. Griffin (2-1, 4.50) takes on Chris Tillman (0-1, 5.23).

Notes

The A’s are 11-2 against American League West competition and 2-9 against everyone else. … They are 1-7 in this 10-game stretch against the AL East. … Milone is 2-1 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts at home … Yoenis Cespedes continued his rehab assignment tonight, going 2-for-3 with a home run and 3 RBI for Triple-A Sacramento.