As mid-July statements go, the Oakland Athletics delivered a powerful message to the Baltimore Orioles.
Sonny Gray struck out eight to win his fifth consecutive decision, and the major-league best A’s pounded the Orioles 10-2 on Sunday in the final regular-season meeting between the AL division leaders.
“I guess it says good things about it,” said A’s catcher John Jaso, who tripled, singled and had two RBIs. “If we face them down the line, we face them down the line. But it’s not something that we think about.”
The A’s (61-37) overpowered the AL East-leading Orioles (53-44) to take two of three at the Coliseum and finish 4-2 against Baltimore this year.
Oakland had 15 hits and chased starter Kevin Gausman (4-3) in the fifth before beating up Baltimore’s bullpen the rest of the way.
Gray (11-3) gave up two runs, one earned, two hits and two walks in 6 2-3 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander hasn’t lost since June 13 at the New York Yankees.
“As the game kind of went on and we were able to put some runs together, it was really big because then I could just take a deep breath and really start attacking the guys, and throwing my stuff up there and have them put it in play,” Gray said.
Oakland’s offense started fast and got contributions from all over.
Stephen Vogt had three hits and drove in a run. Josh Donaldson had two singles and two RBIs. Craig Gentry singled twice and had two RBIs.
Eric Sogard singled twice and drove in a run after starting the day in a 4-for-35 slump. Two-time reigning Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes singled and doubled for his first extra-base hit since June 25.
“They pick their spots to ambush. They took a lot of good pitches,” said Gausman, who gave up five runs and nine hits in four-plus innings.
He didn’t get much relief, either. T.J. McFarland allowed two runs – one earned – in the fifth, and Ryan Webb was charged with three runs in two-thirds of an inning.
The Orioles never got going against Gray and managed just three hits.
J.J. Hardy’s RBI double in the fifth was Baltimore’s first hit. Nelson Cruz also reached on a throwing error by shortstop Jed Lowrie – one of three throwing errors by A’s infielders – in the seventh before Manny Machado’s RBI single ended Gray’s afternoon.
But Gray and the A’s got the win with the same deep and consistent effort they’ve received across the lineup most of the season.
Coco Crisp singled leading off the first and scored on Jaso’s triple. Jaso crossed the plate after a wild pitch by Gausman to give the A’s a 2-0 lead.
Oakland added another run on a weird blunder by Baltimore in the third, when center fielder Adam Jones – and several Orioles players – started trotting to the dugout after he caught Donaldson’s fly for the second out. Cespedes jogged home from third, and Jones stopped and dropped his shoulders after realizing his mistake.
Donaldson said he even questioned whether the scoreboard was correct when Jones began his trot to the dugout. Both managers said they were surprised, too.
Jaso singled to drive in another run in the fourth that extended Oakland’s lead to 4-0. The A’s added three runs in the fifth, getting help from a throwing error by Machado – who continued to get booed for his bat-throwing incident against Oakland in Baltimore last month – at third base, and scored three more in the sixth.
Eric O’Flaherty tossed 1 1-3 scoreless innings and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth as the A’s closed out the Orioles.
NOTES: Josh Reddick (strained right knee) could return from his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sacramento when Oakland opens a three-game series against Houston on Tuesday. … Orioles RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle, threw a bullpen session and will continue to work his way back before making a rehab start in the minors. … Bud Norris (7-6, 3.96 ERA) starts for the Orioles in Monday’s series opener at the Los Angeles Angels, who will send Matt Shoemaker (7-2, 4.38 ERA) to the mound.
Updated July 20, 2014