OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Zach Britton hasn’t received much run support during his stellar rookie season. Once he got a three-run lead Sunday it was as if he didn’t know how to handle it.
That’s how rough things have been these last few days for Baltimore’s staff, and the ramifications are being felt throughout the organization.
Two starting pitchers were optioned to the minors and more changes could be in store after the Orioles lost to Oakland 6-4 on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep by the Athletics.
“If they give me four runs in a game, we shouldn’t lose,” said Britton, who had no-decisions in his previous three starts. “It’s all on me. We played the game the right way. We scored four runs … that should be enough.”
At least Britton’s still with the big league club.
Starting pitchers Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman were both optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday as manager Buck Showalter tries to snap his team out of its funk.
The Orioles could use some help offensively as well.
Vladimir Guerrero singled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, but Baltimore couldn’t score against four Oakland relievers and dropped its third straight on the road after a five-game winning streak at home.
“We definitely had our chances for the big knock,” said third baseman Mark Reynolds, who singled and scored the Orioles second run in the fifth. “They got their big hits when they needed them. It seemed like they had about 20 two-out hits in the series and that kind of deflates you a little bit.”
Britton (5-3) was tagged for career highs of six runs and 10 hits. The left-hander, who was attempting to tie Jake Arrieta for the team lead in wins, walked three and struck out three.
Josh Willingham hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth off Britton, Daric Barton added an insurance run in the sixth and Kevin Kouzmanoff added two hits for Oakland, which extended its longest winning streak this season to four games. The A’s also continued their home dominance of the Orioles with their 12th win in 13 tries at the Coliseum.
Baltimore led 4-1 after loading the bases against Moscoso in the top of the inning then scoring four runs with only one hit.
Felix Pie had an RBI single that A’s center fielder Coco Crisp appeared to make a diving catch on before the ball popped out of his glove after hitting the ground. Nolan Reimold, pushed into action when center fielder Adam Jones left with a sore shoulder, then drew a bases-loaded walk and Nick Markakis and Guerrero added run-scoring groundouts.
But Britton couldn’t hold the lead and Baltimore’s lead vanished in the bottom half of the frame.
“We’ve been doing that this series, going back out there and giving up a run, and it kind of weighs on a team mentally,” Showalter said. “That one inning we pushed four across, that’s pretty hard to quarrel with. We had some other opportunities. We just didn’t get it done.”
The loss of Jones left the Orioles without their leading run producer, though he said after the game he expects to play Monday in Seattle.
That’s significant for a team that has struggled to score on this road trip. After getting four runs against Moscoso, Baltimore managed only two baserunners over the final four innings.
It was a frustrating weekend all around for the Orioles, who were held to 19 hits and grounded into seven double plays during the series.
Oakland got a boost from two-time All-Star closer Andrew Bailey, who made his season debut after being sidelined with a strained right forearm. He pitched a scoreless seventh.
Guillermo Moscoso (2-0) gave up five hits with two walks to earn his second straight win after being called up from the minors on May 24 to replace injured starter Tyson Ross.
Craig Breslow, Bailey and Grant Balfour each pitched one scoreless inning and Brian Fuentes worked the ninth for his 11th save in 13 tries.
Willingham’s second homer in three days capped a four-run fifth and gave the A’s a 5-4 lead. It’s only the fourth three-run shot of the season for Oakland, which has the third-fewest home runs (30) in the majors. In 16 career games against the Orioles, Willingham is batting .400 with four home runs and 12 RBIs.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)