A's take series, show resolve vs. AL juggernaut

After winning first three games, Oakland nearly rallies from 7 down vs. touted O's closer

A's take series, show resolve vs. AL juggernaut

OAKLAND -- The A's brought the potential game-winning run to the plate in Thursday's 9-6 loss to the Orioles after loading the bases against the toughest closer in the American League. Four innings earlier, simply getting to that point seemed like a daunting challenge.

Baltimore finally cracked Oakland's pitching after three days of futility, scoring three runs in the fourth inning off Andrew Triggs prior to Mark Trumbo's grand slam in the fifth. That gave the Orioles a 7-0 lead, and they were up 9-2 after seven innings.

But Max Muncy homered to lead off the eighth, Yonder Alonso drove in two runs off Orioles setup man Darren O'Day, and Billy Butler added an RBI single. Brett Eibner walked with one out in the ninth, Marcus Semien singled and pinch-hitter Khris Davis singled up the middle. Eibner nearly ran into the final out at third base, but recovered. A replay review made sure of it, overturning the out call.

Umpires rule Eibner safe

Ultimately, Zach Britton induced a harmless groundout from Danny Valencia, marking his 35th save and 39th straight appearance without an unearned run, a Major League record. The A's lost, but still took three of four from the Orioles, and they were cognizant of that after the game.

"This guy is going to break the record for the lowest ERA in a single season, and we have the winning run at the plate," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "You can't really argue with that. We don't stop, we don't quit. We keep fighting."

"It's easy to let down when you're down by seven runs at one point, but that wasn't the case," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman stymied Oakland for four innings, until Ryon Healy roped his fourth career homer to left in the fifth. Healy is hitting just .206 over his last 20 games after posting a .316 clip in his first five in the Majors.

Healy's two-run homer

"I just kind of got fed up with swinging at bad pitches over the last four or five games," he said. "I was finally able to quiet down my approach, get myself into a good count and be on time with a good pitch to hit."

From there, Oakland began to put together more competitive at-bats. Orioles reliever Logan Ondrusek walked two batters, failing to complete the eighth, and O'Day struggled as well, allowing two runs in just one-third of an inning. And to load the bases against Britton? He hasn't blown a save all season.

The A's managed to take the series from the O's, who entered atop the American League East. They did so despite using two converted relievers as starters, and throwing only one starter who began the season in the rotation in Kendall Graveman. It's a positive sign following a stretch in which they lost eight of nine games.

Vogt noted the A's, who are 13 games below .500, have played "plenty" of series such as this one, where they seemingly play stronger against tougher opponents.

"It showed good fight," Melvin said. "I think as much as anything over the whole series, we won some close games. To be able to come back and knowing their best relievers are going to come in the game late, we really never quit. That's good to see."

Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.