Andrew Triggs, a third straight fill-in starter getting the nod for the A’s (51-64), did not fare well against the pent-up aggression of the Orioles (64-50), who fell out of the American League East’s top spot with Wednesday’s loss. Staff ace Chris Tillman (W, 15-4, 3.46 ERA) limited the damage to a two-run Ryon Healy home run over seven innings, picking up the win.
A pair of late rallies, in the eighth and ninth innings, each finished one hit short of changing the outcome as the game came to an end with the bases juiced.
Healy said that the series win will help his young team as it motors through the final 50 games of the season:
“We played really clean, top-to-bottom baseball, this entire series. Winning three one-run ball games in the big leagues is not easy to do. …Today we showed some good heart, in the last couple innings, battling back. It’s a good sign for our team moving forward.”
Manager Bob Melvin’s magic touch ran dry under the warm Oakland sun. After being gifted 13-1/3 innings of one-run ball from spot starters in the previous two games, Triggs (L, 0-1, 5.50 ERA) was unable to match the work of his predecessors.
The righty, who allowed just one base runner — a second-inning Jonathan Schoop single — in the first three innings, was hit hard in the fourth.
Facing the Baltimore lineup for a second time, which is not normal of a middle reliever, Triggs was bombarded with four consecutive hits, starting with a one-out single from Manny Machado and concluding with a two-run double from Pedro Alvarez. In the span of nine pitches, he allowed as many runs as the Orioles had scored in the previous three games — three.
Triggs said that fatigue did not play a factor, but that he needs to change things up when facing big league hitters for a second time in a game:
“You have to go to more pitches and different sequences, things of that nature. Professional hitters are good at what they do, and you have to be as good or better if you want to have success.”
The 27-year-old rookie was lifted after finishing the fourth.
Melvin said that he was impressed by the outing:
“He’s been a reliever for us. Today, he was a starter out of necessity — it’s well documented that we’ve had a lot of pitchers hurt. We felt confident enough with where our bullpen was today, with some length, to start him and I thought he pitched really well.”
Reliever Daniel Coulombe (1-1, 4.50 ERA) struggled to find the strike zone in the fifth, walking two (one of which intentional) and falling behind Mark Trumbo. The league’s home run leader leaned on a 3-1 fastball, launching a grand slam — homer No. 32 and slam No. 3 of the season — high over the wall in left center, giving his team a 7-0 lead.
Baltimore added two more in the seventh, on an Adam Jones solo dinger and Alvarez RBI single, and they would need both.
Healy, who continued the Oakland theme of spectacular defense going with a lunging, rolling snag and throw to retire Machado and end the first, put the green and gold on the board with a two-run homer (4) in the bottom of the fifth. Max Muncy added his second bomb of the season, a solo shot, in the eighth off reliever Logan Ondrusek (0-0, 6.75 ERA).
What the skipper said about Healy can also be applied to Muncy:
“You find out the character of a younger player, (when he) comes up and starts real good and then goes through some harder times. … We’ve seen, and we know, that he’s a fighter. So, to some back and makes some good plays, and swing the bat well and hit a ball out of the ballpark, your games kind of surfaces again.”
Making things much more interesting, Yonder Alonso posted the latest addition onto his growing list of clutch hits driving a two-run double into the gap in right-center before being sent home on an RBI single from Billy Butler.
The back-end of the Baltimore bullpen held up under the pressure, however, with Zach Britton (2-1, 0.56 ERA) getting the last out. After loading the bases with two outs, the All-Star closer coaxed a weak ground-out from Danny Valencia, earning save No. 35 on the season.
The A’s will look to gather the momentum this weekend and sink the visiting Seattle Mariners (60-53). Looking to get the pitching back on track will be Sean Manaea (3-7, 4.58 ERA), who has not been the beneficiary of a win since June 29 having gone 0-3 despite allowing just 17 runs in 43-1/3 innings (3.53 ERA) since then.