OAKLAND, Calif. — If the Baltimore Orioles want to contend for the American League pennant, they will likely have to find a way to beat the Oakland Athletics.
Sonny Gray struck out eight to win his fifth consecutive decision, and the A’s pounded the Orioles 10-2 on Sunday in the final regular-season meeting between the AL division leaders.
“They are the best team in baseball right now,” Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “And we’re right there with them.”
Maybe. Just not yet.
The A’s (61-37) overpowered the AL East-leading Orioles (53-44) to take two of three at the Coliseum and finish 4-2 against Baltimore this year.
Hardy’s RBI double in the fifth was the Orioles’ first hit — and one of just three in the game. Oakland had 15 hits and chased starter Kevin Gausman (4-3) in the fifth before beating up Baltimore’s bullpen the rest of the way.
“We’re all ready to get back into a routine for the rest of the season,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s a matter of sticking around and seeing if we can get a chance to roll the dice in September and October.”
Gray (11-3) gave up two runs, one earned, two hits and two walks in 6 2-3 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander hasn’t lost since June 13 at the New York Yankees.
Oakland’s offense started fast and got contributions from all over.
Stephen Vogt had three hits and drove in a run. John Jaso, who tripled, singled and had two RBIs. Josh Donaldson had two singles and two RBIs. Craig Gentry singled twice and had two RBIs.
Eric Sogard singled twice and drove in a run after starting the day in a 4-for-35 slump. Two-time reigning Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes singled and doubled for his first extra-base hit since June 25.
“They pick their spots to ambush. They took a lot of good pitches,” said Gausman, who gave up five runs and nine hits in four-plus innings.
He didn’t get much relief, either. T.J. McFarland allowed two runs — one earned — in the fifth, and Ryan Webb was charged with three runs in two-thirds of an inning.
The Orioles never got going against Gray and managed just three hits in all.
J.J. Hardy’s RBI double in the fifth was Baltimore’s first hit. Nelson Cruz also reached on a throwing error by shortstop Jed Lowrie — one of three throwing errors by A’s infielders — in the seventh before Manny Machado’s RBI single ended Gray’s afternoon.
But Gray and the A’s got the win with the same deep and consistent effort they have received across the lineup most of the season.
Coco Crisp singled leading off the first and scored on Jaso’s triple. Jaso crossed the plate after a wild pitch by Gausman to give the A’s a 2-0 lead.
Oakland added another run on a weird blunder by Baltimore in the third, when center fielder Adam Jones — and several Orioles players — started trotting to the dugout after he caught Donaldson’s fly for the second out. Cespedes jogged home from third, and Jones stopped and dropped his shoulders after realizing his mistake.
Donaldson said he even questioned whether the scoreboard was correct when Jones began his trot to the dugout. Both managers said they were surprised, too.
Jaso singled to drive in another run in the fourth that extended Oakland’s lead to 4-0. The A’s added three runs in the fifth, getting help on a throwing error by Machado — who continued to get booed for his bat-throwing incident against Oakland in Baltimore last month — at third base, and scored three more in the sixth.
Eric O’Flaherty tossed 1 1-3 scoreless innings, and Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth as the A’s closed out the Orioles.
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