Tonight the Orioles swept the Athletics in the Baltimore, the first time they have done so since 21-23 July 1998. To do so they had to rely on the excellent pitching of Zach Britton, because the Orioles' bats were certainly not on fire. They scored all three of their runs in the fifth inning and were held to just three hits over the rest of the game. Luckily for them, tonight three runs was enough.
In innings one through four, the Orioles were unable to do anything against Oakland starter Josh Outman. Outman allowed just one hit through the fourth, a single by Derrek Lee in the second inning. But in the fifth, they scored just enough.
Vladimir Guerrero led off the inning and singled. It looked like it would be another lost inning after Lee and Matt Wieters struck out, but a wild pitch put Vladdy in scoring position for J.J. Hardy, who lined a ball to center field. Vlad huffed and puffed around the bases to give the O's a 1-0 lead. With Hardy on first, Mark Reynolds only needed one pitch to make the score 3-0. He hit a line drive to left-center that landed in the Orioles bullpen for his tenth home run on the year. All right, Mark! Double digits! Nolan Reimold popped out to end the inning, and that was it for the O's offense on the day.
After getting knocked around in his last two starts, Britton righted his ship against the light hitting Athletics (the same light hitting Athletics that lit Britton up for six runs in 5.2 innings eleven days ago). In fact, he didn't hit any speed bumps until the sixth inning. Through the first five he racked up six strikeouts and gave up only two hits, a single to Conor Jackson in the first inning and a double to Jemile Weeks in the third.
In the sixth inning, back-to-back singles by Weeks and Coco Crisp put runners on the corners with no outs, but Britton was able to induce a double play from Daric Barton. Weeks scored on the play but the bases were emptied with two outs. Well, they were empty until Britton walked Jackson, but thankfully Josh Willingham flied out to Reimold in left field to end the inning.
Britton started the seventh inning, but he was struggling. He walked Kurt Suzuki on four pitches to start, and he was sweating a lot in the disgusting Baltimore weather. David DeJesus hit a ground ball to Robert Andino, who got the out at second. That would do it for Britton, whose final line was 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Gotta love the K/BB ratio on the night as that has been one of his struggles this season.
With DeJesus on first and one out, Jim Johnson took over. Adam Rosales hit a ball to third that Mark Reynolds made a very good play on and threw to Andino to force DeJesus at second. Cliff Pennington grounded out to second to end the inning, because Jim Johnson is awesome.
The A's got a second run in the eighth inning courtesy of Nolan Reimold. Weeks hit a fly ball to left field, not deep. Reimold came in to make the play and at the last minute he just...didn't catch it. Maybe he lost it in the lights as Gary Thorne and Mike Flanagan suggested, maybe a bug flew into his mouth and distracted him, who knows. Whatever the reason, that's a catch you gotta make, Nolan! The ball rolled to the wall and the speedy Weeks made it all the way to third. He scored on a fly ball from Coco Crisp to make the score 3-2. Johnson got out of the inning without further trouble, but handing a one-run lead to Kevin Gregg instead of a two-run lead was enough to give the citizens of Birdland a mild case of heartburn.
Turns out there was nothing to worry about as Gregg had another 1-2-3 inning, courtesy of two fine plays from Andino at second. The final batter, Ryan Sweeney, hit a ground ball back to the mound and Gregg tossed it to first to end the game and complete the sweep.