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OAK@BAL: Smith subs in, plates five runs on two hits

BALTIMORE -- The dramatic has become the norm for the Athletics, who added another chapter to their storybook season of late-game heroics on Friday.

After closer Ryan Cook gave away a lead with two outs in the eighth, the A's stormed back to plate six runs in the ninth, securing a 14-9 win in the opener of a three-game set against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

"That was a heavyweight fight," manager Bob Melvin said. "That was about as hard as you can battle. That might have been, as far as games go, both teams fighting that hard, one of the better games I've ever seen, actually."

Just another day at the ballpark for the Athletics, who have shown an uncanny flare for the dramatic this season, including 11 walk-off wins and a 21-10 record in games decided in the seventh inning or later.

"It's a character-building game, but we've had a lot of those," said Seth Smith, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and tied a career high with five RBIs. "Guys are professional. They're going to give everything they've got until the last out is made. That's what we expect, and we've got a group of guys here that's willing to do that."

"I think you have that consistent fight at the end of games," Melvin said. "You can take that energy and that confidence in the late innings, when you're down. I think that's what we draw from."

The win was Oakland's 12th in its past 14 games, moving the A's to nine games over .500 and giving them a 1 1/2-game lead on the Tigers for the American League's second Wild Card spot.

One night after having a season-high seven-game winning streak snapped, Oakland improved to 11-2 since the All-Star break and 17-3 in July, both tops in the AL.

Melvin has consistently resisted looking too far ahead and assessing the team's playoff chances, but there was no denying the weighty atmosphere at Camden Yards.

"I won't argue the fact that it did feel like a postseason game the way it was played," Melvin said. "The intensity of the at-bats by both teams, it was pretty phenomenal."

Facing All-Star closer Jim Johnson and a 9-8 deficit in the ninth, six consecutive A's reached base with one out.

Chris Carter singled, Brandon Inge singled, Derek Norris singled to tie it and Jemile Weeks singled to put the A's back on top.

After a two-run single by Coco Crisp, Johnson was pulled for Luis Ayala and Smith hammered a two-run double off the wall in right, giving the A's a misleading five-run win in a game that looked lost moments before.

"Both teams got to both closers, which is very difficult to do when you're behind," Melvin said. "You wouldn't expect to get the runs off of Cook, either, the season that he's having."

After Sean Doolittle left with two on and two outs in the eighth, Cook came on and yielded back-to-back RBI singles to J.J. Hardy and Jim Thome, drawing the Orioles even.

Adam Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Chris Davis knocked a single to left, scoring Hardy to give the Orioles the 9-8 lead.

But that damage and more was undone by an A's offense that tied a season high with 16 hits.

With the A's trailing, 6-5, with two outs in the sixth after Jones hit a go-ahead three-run homer the inning before, Orioles starter Zach Britton exited after walking Brandon Hicks.

Right-hander Miguel Socolovich entered and walked the bases loaded, setting the stage for Smith, who had only had three at-bats since Sunday due to a platoon split that landed him mostly on the bench against five consecutive lefty starters.

"It was tough," Smith said. "I don't remember a stretch like this this year or even when I was kind of a platoon guy in Colorado."

To top it off, Smith entered Friday hitting only .186 in his last 23 games. But, when called on to pinch-hit for Jonny Gomes, he knocked a fastball on the outer half of the plate to the opposite field, driving in three to give Oakland an 8-6 lead.

"I didn't know if I was hitting or not until our spot got up," Smith said. "There I was, 0-2, able to lay off some tough pitches and finally got a fastball that I could handle."

Long forgotten by game's end was the way the A's stormed out to a 5-0 advantage on the backs of their continued power surge.

Chris Carter's two-run home run -- his seventh in his first 48 at-bats of the season -- capped a four-run first before Hicks hit his second career homer on the first pitch of the second.

The A's now have 26 home runs in 13 games since the All-Star break, the most in the Majors.

"In the course of the game, I don't even remember that first part of it," Melvin said. "It felt like it was probably three different games."

Starter Jarrod Parker had one of his worst outings of the year, allowing six runs on eights hits and lasting only five innings.

"A couple bad pitches I'd like to have back," Parker said. "Some of those pitches I probably could have hit out of the park."

Melvin said he felt Parker had "really good stuff" most of the night, but was done in by a few critical mistakes.

Parker had surrendered only four home runs on the season before yielding two on Friday, as Davis put the O's on the board with a solo shot in the second before Jones lined a three-run shot to left on a slider Parker said "didn't slide," capping a four-run fifth inning.

But, in the end, Parker's efforts proved inconsequential, and that's just fine by him.

"That's all that matters -- we won," Parker said. "The guys picked me up and kept fighting. We've done that all year where we've played until the last out in the last inning and this team has never given up. I think that's what's made us so good so far."

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