If there's anywhere that you can really get your hopes up about a flyball pitcher, it's Oakland. Wei-Yin Chen was excellent tonight, going eight shutout innings and striking out five while allowing just two each of hits and walks. Most of his outs were made in the air, as usual, but many of them were lazy infield flies or barely made it to the outfield. That's generally a good sign that Chen is on his game, and he was tonight; his changeup was particularly effective.
For the Athletics, Tommy Milone didn't pitch badly either, giving up just one unearned run over 6.1 innings. That was enough to tag him with the loss, however, as the six hits he gave up conspired with some errors. Milone also sported a good changeup and struck out five Orioles, and the game remained scoreless through the first six innings.
It looked Manny Machado might score in the top of the first, as he displayed his best Brian Roberts imitation by doubling to left-center and stealing third with one out. Adam Jones struck out in a poor-looking at-bat, however, and Matt Wieters followed suit after Chris Davis walked. In the second, Nolan Reimold beat Milone to the bag for a one-out infield single. Steve Pearce followed with a grounder to third, but no outs were made, as Josh Donaldson threw high to second, pulling Jed Lowrie off the second-base bag. In turn, Lowrie's throw to first was just a little too slow to get Pearce. Unfortunately, Alexi Casilla followed up this good fortune by giving the A's another double-play ball, and this time they turned it.
Chen, meanwhile, retired seven A's in a row during the first three innings, inducing a few pop-ups and allowing only one hit, a ground-hugging liner that Machado couldn't quite field. With one out in the fourth, Lowrie smoked a "fliner" to right-center, but Jones made a great catch, allowing Chen to continue cruising along. The O's continued to avoid giving him run support in the fifth, as Pearce led off the inning by crushing a double that hit off the top of the center field wall, missing a homer by perhaps two feet. Casilla continued his rough night, striking out on three pitches after twice failing to get a bunt down, and Nick Markakis and Machado both popped out to short, stranding Pearce.
In the bottom of the inning, Chen threw three consecutive high fastballs to A's first baseman Nate Freiman, who smashed the 0-2 offering to right-center for a one-out double. Chen managed to get yet another pop-up from Casper Wells, but then was saved by his defense, as Machado (who else?) snared a hard grounder to keep the run from scoring. In the seventh, the O's finally broke through, assisted by another A's error. J.J. Hardy singled to right-center, but Josh Reddick bobbled the ball and slipped, allowing Hardy to get to second. Reimold popped out on the next pitch, and Milone quickly got a 1-2 count on Pearce. Pearce came through on the fifth pitch of his at-bat, however, knocking a hard grounder up the middle and just out of reach of shortstop Adam Rosales, giving the O's a 1-0 lead.
Chen managed to get through the next two innings unscathed, though after a one-out liner to left and a two-out walk, it looked like his night was about over. He recovered, however, and not only finished the seventh inning, but had an easy three-up, three-down eighth. With Chen out of the ballgame and one out, Hardy started another O's rally with a single. Reimold and Pearce followed with walks, the latter on an impressive twelve-pitch at-bat with several fouls of tough pitches. Buck Showaler sent Nate McLouth up to pinch-hit for Casilla, and he hit a potential double-play grounder to second. The situation, however - speedy runner, one out, need to turn a tough double play to keep the game 1-0 - forced Lowrie to charge the ball, and he couldn't handle the short-hop. Hardy scored on the third Oakland error, and Markakis drove in another run on the next pitch with a sacrifice fly.
Now with a little more breathing room, Jim Johnson came on to get an easy three-run save. Fly ball to right, strikeout, flukey bloop opposite-field double, groundout, Johnson's ninth save, O's win. They'll look to lock up a rare series win in the Coliseum tomorrow.