Birds let rubber match vs. A's slip away late
Bullpen allows five-run eighth in late-inning heartbreaker
BALTIMORE -- Snakebitten. Unfortunate. Unlucky.The words thrown around the Orioles clubhouse Thursday night said it all. The Orioles were utterly defeated, after letting the Athletics come back in a 7-5 win before 26,279 at Camden Yards. Brad Bergesen, an Oakland native, held the A's (25-23) to two runs through seven innings, retiring 14 straight at one point. But Oakland put a five-spot on the board in the eighth, with all the runs coming with two outs. It left the Orioles scratching their heads. "You certainly think you've seen a little bit of everything, but you hate to get a game taken away from a guy who's pitched as well as Bergesen did and lose it under those conditions," manager Dave Trembley said. "It's really unfortunate that those things happened." It won't get any easier from here for Baltimore (15-33). The Orioles enter a stretch, which extends through the All-Star break, where they'll play 40 consecutive games against teams currently over .500. For the Orioles to reach the July 12 break with anywhere near a winning record of their own, they'll have to learn how to labor through the difficulties that have plagued them for the season's first two months. "It seems a lot this year that's been going on," first baseman Ty Wigginton said. "Somehow we have to find a way to get through those innings and even find a way back into the game." Bergesen retired 14 straight heading into the eighth, before Adam Rosales and Mark Ellis both singled, prompting Trembley to remove Bergesen after 93 pitches. Right-hander Jason Berken entered and got Rajai Davis to fly out. Trembley then popped back out of the dugout, and despite Berken holding lefties to a .194 average. He called upon left-hander Mark Hendrickson, against whom left-handers bat .333. Trembley opted to go with the traditional lefty-vs.-lefty showdown. "I think you're going to go left vs. left there. I think that's really what you're going to do," Trembley said. "Berken hasn't faced these guys a lot. They're two best hitters are their two lefties right there. I think if you look at Berken, Berken's a fly ball pitcher. You don't want Berken to give up a home run there. He's never been in that situation before. Hendrickson has. He did a nice job the other night in the same role. That's the decision that was made." Ryan Sweeney hit a broken-bat bloop to left, scoring Rosales. Kurt Suzuki singled off Hendrickson's shin, and Jake Fox -- pinch-hitting for Jack Cust -- hit a grounder to short that took a tough hop on Cesar Izturis, keeping the rally alive. Trembley called upon his fourth pitcher of the inning, entering right-handed submariner Cla Meredith to face Kevin Kouzmanoff with the bases loaded. The A's third baseman roped a bases-clearing double to left-center, sending hoards of Orioles faithful for the gates, and Bergesen to the showers with a sickening no-decision. "There's nothing we could do," Bergesen said. "There were a couple bad, bad breaks right there. Every guy that's coming out of the 'pen, they're laying it on the line, giving it all they've got and they've done great so far this year, and hopefully they'll continue to do so." Bergesen threw 56 of his 93 pitches for strikes, allowing four hits and four earned in seven innings. His lone mistake, before the back-to-back singles in the eighth, was a two-run home run by A's left fielder Gabe Gross -- a 422-foot shot to dead center which snapped a 52-game homerless streak for the Baltimore native -- with one out in the second. The A's seemed poised to strike for more in the third. After putting Rajai Davis and Daric Barton on via walks to open the inning, Bergesen had a game-changing moment that seemed to shake him into a groove. With nobody out and runners on first and second, Sweeney grounded to second, where Julio Lugo had Daric Barton in a run-down. Barton evaded Lugo long enough that the second baseman threw to first to retire Sweeney. Wigginton threw to second, where Barton would have been out on a tag play, but Izturis wisely cut the throw on the run, firing home to nail Davis. The speedy center fielder had burned the Orioles on the bases in the series, and narrowly missed doing so again, as he just missed the back corner of the plate with his left foot as Matt Wieters applied a tag to his left shoulder. The unusual 4-3-6-2 double play helped Bergesen escape a potential jam, which ended when Suzuki flew out to center to end the inning. After helping kill the A's rally, Izturis started the O's version in the bottom half of the inning. The O's shortstop singled, stole second and scored on a bases-loaded fielder's choice by Miguel Tejada. With two out and runners on first and second, Wieters singled softly to center, scoring Wigginton, who had walked with one out. The Orioles added two runs in the seventh, as Tejada singled home Lugo, and Michael Wuertz walked Garrett Atkins with the bases loaded to push Wigginton across. The Orioles had the tying run at first with one out in the ninth, but Adam Jones flew out to right and Atkins pushed the count to 3-1 before Andrew Bailey blew two fastballs past him for the final out.
Sean Welsh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.