A 25-pitch first inning for Bruce Zimmermann and the two errors on one play and resulting runs didn’t fit a team that sought to sweep a series and extend its winning streak to four games.
More appropriate were the two rallies in the first five innings that erased deficits and kept alive the quest to reach .500. And a third RBI for Trey Mancini in the seventh that gave the Orioles their first lead.
It didn’t last long. And .500 was put on hold in jarring fashion.
Ramón Laureano made a sensational leaping catch to rob DJ Stewart of a run-scoring extra-base hit in the top of the eighth inning and hit a two-out, two-run homer off Travis Lakins Sr. in the bottom half to give the Athletics a 7-5 win over the Orioles.
The loss dropped the Orioles 13-15 overall and 9-5 on the road as they head to Seattle.
Mark Canha blooped a single into right field with two outs and Laureano launched a cutter for the first earned runs allowed by Lakins in 10 appearances. The last twist in a game filled with them.
“I think you’ve got to give credit to them and how they played defense the last couple innings,” manager Brandon Hyde said on his Zoom call. “Laureano’s catch obviously was spectacular and Canha there with a huge play. That ball gets by him and we’re scoring runs and they’re in the ninth inning. So credit them for getting some big hits in some big spots, as well as making the plays defensively, really nice plays, that didn’t allow us to score there.
“I’m really proud of the way our team played this series. I thought our bats were really good against some really good pitching. Up and down the order, super competitive, taking walks, getting big hits in big spots against a good team. So taking this as a positive even though it’s a tough loss. Besides the one inning when we didn’t catch the ball very well, I thought we played well all series.”
Mancini lined a single into right field off Jake Diekman with two outs in the seventh to score Ramón Urías, who walked and stayed alive on a botched double play, but the Athletics took their tying turn in the bottom half when Matt Chapman scored from second base on Jed Lowrie’s infield hit.
Franco’s throw was wide of the bag and Mancini couldn’t dig the ball out of his mitt as Chapman kept motoring.
“It was just fantastic baserunning,” Hyde said. “Didn’t slow down. He was trying to score from the time the ball was hit.”
Paul Fry almost got out of the jam after inheriting a runner from Adam Plutko. Chapman singled with one out, but Cedric Mullins cut down Sean Murphy at third base for the team’s sixth outfield assist of the season. Chapman reached second and scored on the infield hit.
Laureano’s larceny in the eighth involved scaling the fence to pull down Stewart’s ball that would have given the Orioles another lead. Ryan Mountcastle doubled for his second hit of the day. Stewart stared at Laureano in disbelief.
Matt Olson hit a two-run homer in the third inning to break a tie and Mancini brought the teams even again in the fifth with a two-out, two-run single. His single in the seventh produced his team-leading 21st RBI.
Urías walked and reached second on Mullins’ ground ball that Elvis Andrus fielded before bouncing a backhanded flip to Lowrie. Hays fouled out, too much territory for the ball to reach the seats, and Mancini took a 95 mph fastball the other way.
Olson jumped on a 92 mph fastball in the third and cleared the center field fence after Zimmermann began the inning by hitting Murphy. The Baltimore native lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and four total, and his ERA is 5.40 after six starts.
Zimmermann hadn’t allowed a hit to the cleanup hitter in his brief major league career. They were 0-for-14, including 0-for-11 with a walk and four strikeouts in 2021, until Olson returned to the lineup today.
Olson came within a triple of the cycle. He led off the fifth inning with a double, Zimmermann walked Mitch Moreland with two outs and Plutko stranded them by striking out Brown on three pitches.
Plutko retired the first four batters he faced to lower his ERA to 1.10 and WHIP to 0.92. He issued a leadoff walk to Murphy in the seventh and Fry replaced him.
The day ended for Zimmermann after 87 pitches, 49 for strikes. He allowed seven hits, walked two batters, struck out four and hit a pair, and he hasn’t gone more than 4 2/3 innings in his last three starts.
“I would have liked to have landed a few more strikes inside for sure, because you can only establish so much inside and cause them to think about it when you miss up in the zone and you’ve got to establish in for a strike,” Zimmermann said. “I think I threw other pitches for a strike well, just would have liked to have landed a few more inside for a strike.
“It’s a learning process. I just take it one day at a time. It’s the big leagues, it’s going to be difficult at times. I don’t think anybody, especially myself, I never expected for it to be a smooth ride the entire time. But I think there were some positives from this game I can take away, especially moving on from the last couple starts. It’s been difficult, but it’s the big leagues and I’m looking to improve and learn from each game and keep making strides to go deeper in games and help my team win.”
Said Hyde: “I just thought again the fastball command wasn’t quite there. Was trying to go in to right-handers. There were a lot of misses up, kind of ball out of hand, balls spraying on him a little bit, fastball. He did compete, did go into the fifth inning against the Oakland A’s on the road, Kept us in the game. Plutko kept us right there also. Just the fastball command wasn’t where it should be or has been early on in the season. I thought he threw some nice secondary pitches. Just being able to locate your fastball both sides against good lineups is important.”
Hays hit his fourth home run of the season in the third inning - all of them against the A’s - to tie the game 2-2. He followed Freddy Galvis’ RBI single in the second after Pedro Severino doubled. Both runs scored with two outs, and the trend would continue with Mancini.
Hays’ ball traveled 408 feet, according to Statcast.
“He’s staying healthy, I think you’re seeing the kind of player he can be,” Hyde said. “I love the homer, obviously, (but) I love the walk there late. Trivino is nasty and to be able to lay off the tough pitches, draw the walk, get Mancini up in a big spot. Mancini squares up the ball and it doesn’t work out for us. But that was a really good at-bat before Trey. He’s taking much better at-bats than he did the first couple weeks. It’s huge for us, especially with Cedric doing what he’s doing. Really getting on base for us the whole time, to have somebody behind him taking good at-bats and a power threat, speed, threat, etc.”
Stewart led off the fifth with a single, Hays singled with two outs and moved up on a wild pitch, and Mancini pushed a ground ball into left field for a 4-4 tie. Canha made a sliding catch in left field to rob Franco.
Lacking fastball command at times today, Zimmermann gave up three singles and walked a batter in the first inning, but the defense also let him down.
Urías couldn’t handle Stewart’s throw from right field with two outs that should have put runners on the corners. Laureano slid into third base, saw Urías fumbling for the ball and raced home.
Urías’ throw bounced past Severino, Olson hustled to third base and scored on Lowrie’s single after Zimmermann walked Chapman.
Stewart and Urías were charged with errors on the play. Zimmermann was charged with one earned run, with more to come.
Urías also committed a throwing error while trying to turn a double play in the fourth, with a popup slide by Andrus appearing to interfere with him. A fly ball and strikeout kept the score 4-2 and left Zimmermann at 70 pitches.
Hyde is trying to find more production and steadier play at second base, and Urías, Ruiz and Pat Valaika are the current options. Meanwhile, Jahmai Jones and Richie Martin form the double play combination at Triple-A Norfolk, which begins its season Tuesday night.
Zimmermann hit Canha in the second inning, allowing the left fielder to break Sal Bando’s club record of 60. Nothing else broke.
Mountcastle singled in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He’s reached base in the last 10.
“We came in, on the road, long flight, time change, a lot of variables thrown our way and we were able to kind of punch them in the mouth the first two games and take it from them,” Hays said.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to tip your cap to the other team. They came out swinging early, they were able to take advantage of some of Bruce’s mistakes and we fought back in there. We were able to take the lead, but they just didn’t give in today no matter what and they didn’t give away any outs. We really hit the ball great late in the game. We were getting walks, we were getting runners on, we had our opportunities, and DJ put a great swing on the ball, and that play Laureano made, I mean, that’s going to be the No. 1 play on ESPN tonight probably.”