OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Athletics have had a different star for just about every monumental win they’ve had this season.
Shortstop Stephen Drew became the latest — doing it at the plate and in the field.
Drew homered and made a pair of big defensive plays to back Jarrod Parker, and the A’s beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-2 on Saturday night to pull within two games of division-leading Texas.
“It’s kind of crazy how this team works sometimes,” Drew said. “It’s a good feeling to have, anybody, anytime. It works out well.”
It definitely did against Baltimore.
Drew’s home run was the first of four hits in the third inning off Baltimore starter Zach Britton and sparked a five-run outburst for Oakland. It’s Drew’s second home run as a member of the A’s and fourth overall.
The A’s shortstop then made the first of his two defensive gems when he threw out Adam Jones trying to score from first on Chris Davis’ double in the fourth.
Jones reached on a leadoff infield single and Davis followed with a double down the left field line. Jones kept running as Yoenis Cespedes retrieved the ball and threw it to Drew, who turned and made the relay throw home just in time to nab Jones as he was attempting to slide past catcher Derek Norris.
“He’s been a good fit for us,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Everything has to work on a play like that. If you’re a little on that play you don’t get the runner, and that was a big play in the game for us not to give up a run.”
Drew later ran down Endy Chavez’s grounder behind second base and flipped the ball from his glove to Adam Rosales to force out Mark Reynolds.
Nate McLouth homered for Baltimore, which dropped one game behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.
“No one in this clubhouse is down,” Jones said. “The last few days we’ve been beat. I don’t think we’ve beaten ourselves. We just can’t score enough runs.”
Chris Carter had a two-run double as part of the third inning while Josh Reddick added two hits and an RBI for Oakland, which has won two straight over Baltimore to clinch the season series between the top two teams in the AL wild card race.
The A’s aren’t giving up on the division either.
The win, coupled with the Rangers loss to Seattle, moved Oakland within two games of Texas. It’s the closest the A’s have been since April 13.
They’re also a season-high 23 games over .500. and have already won 10 more games than they did last year.
Parker (11-8) allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings to win back-to-back starts for the first time since mid-July. The A’s rookie right-hander struck out five, walked one and retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced.
“Early on I was kind of battling myself a little bit and then I was able to kind of get over that and pitch better,” Parker said. “They’re an aggressive team and I got some early contact on some off-speed pitches and that helped out.”
Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless eighth and Grant Balfour worked the ninth for his 19th save.
Baltimore took an early 2-0 but couldn’t make it hold up.
The Orioles managed only two hits after the fourth inning and stranded a pair of baserunners in the ninth when Balfour got Chavez to ground to third for the final out.
Parker got the Orioles to ground into a double play in the first but his error on a pickoff attempt in the second led to Baltimore’s first run.
Jones singled and was leading off the bag when Parker’s throw to Carter at first base went in the dirt and rolled almost to the Orioles bullpen. Jones raced to third then scored on Reynolds’ double to left.
McLouth made it 2-0 with his third homer of the season, only the ninth home run allowed this season by Parker.
Britton (5-3) didn’t allow a hit until the third when the A’s scored five runs.
Drew’s solo home run started the outburst. After Rosales grounded out, Coco Crisp walked before Britton hit Jonny Gomes on his left elbow to put runners at first and second.
Reddick and Cespedes both followed with RBI singles, and Carter doubled both men home to make it 5-2.
“The ball was running all over the place on me that inning,” Britton said. “I didn’t make any adjustment. I couldn’t make a pitch to get out of that inning.”
Britton gave up five earned runs for the second consecutive start. The left-hander had four strikeouts and four walks.
Notes: Baltimore has hit into five double plays in the first two games of the series. … Rookie RHP Dan Straily (2-0) pitches for Oakland in the series finale. … LHP Randy Wolf (2-0) makes his first start since signing with Baltimore after being released by Milwaukee in late August.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)