Final Score: Orioles 10, A's 3
Everything you need to go about today's game can be summed up by describing two pitches, one to each team.
The first was to J.J. Hardy leading off the 2nd with the Orioles leading 2-1. Sonny Gray, pitching in front of family and friends for the first time, threw a 2-strike "chase" curve down and away well off the plate, and Hardy chased it. Somehow able to make contact, Hardy blooped it to RF and after charging it Reddick laid back to play it on a hop.
Only this hop was no ordinary one: The ball kicked, quite literally, at a 90 degree angle towards CF allowing Hardy to turn a swinging strikeout into a double. That started a 3-run inning that gave Baltimore a 5-1 lead. Considering that the 2 runs off of Gray in the 1st came on two soft singles and a single away from the shift, this pretty typified Gray's short afternoon (3.1 IP, 8hits, 6 ER): Sure he made a few bad, or wide, pitches, but he could have had a heck of a lot better fortune.
However, Scott Feldman was anything but sharp, opening the game by walking Coco Crisp and balking him to 2B and eventually allowing an RBI single to Alberto Callaspo. The A's loaded the bases against Feldman with 2 outs in the 3rd, at which point Feldman had already thrown 73 pitches in 2.2 IP. In a 5-1 game, Seth Smith represented the tying run with Feldman on the ropes. What did the formerly patient, formerly dangerous Smith do? He swung at the first pitch and he popped it up to shallow LF.
In the end, Feldman was charged with just 1 run in 5 IP even though he walked 4, threw 102 pitches, and just wasn't all that good overall. What was good was the Orioles' ability to execute with runners on base. Of the first 10 outs they made, 3 of them were sacrifice flies. In contrast, the A's were just 1 for 7 with RISP, including Smith's key AB and Josh Donaldson's back-breaking 5-4-3 DP after Crisp and Lowrie led off the 5th with singles. Donaldson did, however, have the courtesy to bomb a 2-run HR in the 8th to bring the A's closer at 7-3 -- before Pat Neshek served up a couple homerun balls in the 8th (Markakis, solo and McLouth, 2-run bomb) to return the game to blowout status.
Meanwhile, to complete the pitching-clutch hitting-injury trifecta of suck, Josh Reddick left the game in the 6th due to the wrist pain he is attempting to play through and you have to wonder, with rosters expanding next Sunday anyway, whether the A's might feel it is finally time to call up Michael Choice. Choice is batting .298.384/.442 (.827 OPS) for the River Cats.
Ahead comes a big 72-hour test to say the least. Heading to Detroit for a 4-game series to face the top scoring team in the league, and about to face ERA leader Anibal Sanchez, A's-and-usually-everyone killer Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and 19-1 Max Scherzer, the first 3 A's pitchers to throw in the series figure to be A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, and Dan Straily. Hey, who knows -- maybe Mike Rouse will go 3 for 3 and maybe Micah Bowie will get the win. But right now, in the division race they trail and the "2nd wild card" race they lead, it's time to go into survival mode because the next 3 days are going to be David vs. Goliath on a lot of levels and if the A's can stay with the Tigers these next few days they can probably stay with anyone.