A’s stay sharp behind Braden, beat slumping Orioles
OAKLAND – Dallas Braden won’t even try to explain his dominance of the Baltimore Orioles. The Oakland left-hander only knows he likes the results.
Braden scattered three hits over seven innings to win his second consecutive start and got plenty of offensive and defensive support from his teammates in the Athletics’ 4-2 win over the Orioles on Friday night.
The A’s turned two double plays, shortstop Cliff Pennington made several stellar plays and Oakland got all nine of its hits off Kevin Millwood.
Braden, who only has 16 career wins, improved to 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA in six career appearances against the Orioles.
“I don’t know that I’m that good against Baltimore,” said Braden (2-0), who struck out four and walked one. “It’s just the matchups I’ve had so far have worked out for me. That’s about it. I’ve never been a guy who’s tried to take anything for granted.”
Braden, pitching with permanent numbness in his left foot as a result of nerve damage suffered in 2009, retired the first 10 batters he faced until Nick Markakis doubled down the right-field line in the fourth inning.
Markakis was stranded, though, when Miguel Tejada fouled out to first baseman Daric Barton and Matt Wieters grounded out.
The A’s lefty was cruising again in the fifth with two outs, but issued a four-pitch walk to Garrett Atkins before Ty Wigginton’s home run trimmed Oakland’s lead to 4-2.
Baltimore couldn’t get anything else going. Braden, who grew up in Stockton 70 miles north of Oakland, faced only three batters over the minimum in seven innings, getting a 3-6-1 double play on his final pitch.
“I always like to stress strike one and that was the prevalent thing for me tonight, being able to force the issue with them,” Braden said. “They’ve got some guys that when you get behind or get guys on base, they can do some damage with one swing of the bat. I’m sure that ball Wiggington hit is probably sitting somewhere on my coffee table right now back in Stockton.”
Gabe Gross had three hits and Cliff Pennington tripled in two runs in the fifth for the A’s, who have won eight straight home games against the Orioles. Andrew Bailey pitched the ninth for his first save.
“If you’re not going to hit a bunch of home runs, you have to link hits together, you have to get timely hits, run the bases, make the plays in the field and get good pitching,” Oakland manager Bob Geren. “That’s pretty much what we did. It was a good all-around effort by everybody.”
The Orioles fell to 1-10, their worst start since opening the 1988 season with 21 consecutive losses. Meanwhile, the A’s are tied for the second-best record in the American League at 8-4.
“It’s a situation I can’t explain or put my finger on,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. “We’re a much better ballclub than we’ve played. I get tired of answering the same questions in a very positive way but that’s the way I will be.”
Brad Ziegler pitched one shutout inning before Bailey, the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year, worked the ninth to complete the game in a tidy 2 hours, 9 minutes.
Oakland jumped on Millwood early. Jake Fox hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Kevin Kouzmanoff in the second inning, and the A’s added an unearned run off Millwood (0-2) in the third to make it 2-0.
The A’s added two more runs in the fourth, getting back-to-back singles from Fox and Gross before Pennington’s triple to right.
Millwood finished with nine strikeouts, but also gave up nine hits in six innings. The right-hander has a respectable 2.89 ERA, but is winless in three starts this season for the first time since 2005.
NOTES: Baltimore’s last win in Oakland came on July 22, 2007. … The Orioles placed OF Felix Pie on the 15-day disabled with a strained upper back after he injured himself while batting a day earlier. OF Lou Montanez, recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to take Pie’s roster spot, hit into a double play while pinch-hitting in the eighth. … The A’s announced before the game that they had agreed to terms on a $12.5 million, four-year contract with LHP Brett Anderson. The deal could be worth as much as $31 million over six seasons. … Barton had reached base safely in all 11 games before going 0-for-4 against Baltimore … A’s RF Ryan Sweeney extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an infield single in the fifth.
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