Not since Bert Camperneris have the A’s seen a bat toss of such epic proportions as the one chucked by Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado on Sunday. Machado’s bat fling, which set off a bench-clearing incident and resulted in a couple of ejections, didn’t end up putting too much of a damper on the weekend for the A’s, as they won two out of three games at Camden Yards to run their record to 39-24. They continue to sit in first place in the American League West, four-and-a-half games up on the second place Los Angeles Angels.
The A’s rode into Baltimore coming off of a series win in New York against the Yankees, and having won five of their last six games. The Orioles, meanwhile, had won four of five but overall had been struggling through a season marked by several starts and stops, putting the playoff hopefuls just a couple of games above .500.
The A’s won the series opener on Friday in extra innings, winning 4-3 on an eleventh-inning single by Stephen Vogt. Josh Donaldson and Derek Norris slammed home runs in the first two innings off of Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, but A’s starter Tommy Milone surrendered home runs of his own to Chris Davis and Manny Machado, and Baltimore held a 3-2 lead going into the eighth. The A’s tied it that inning off of reliever Darren O’Day when Coco Crisp singled, stole second, then scored on a two-out double by Yoenis Cespedes. The game stayed tied into the eleventh, when John Jaso doubled, advanced on an error, and then scored on a single by Vogt, who had entered as a pinch hitter. Sean Doolittle then struck out the side in the bottom of the inning to cement the win for the A’s. Donaldson’s first inning home run was his seventeenth, which ties him for third in the AL.
The bad blood that would pervade throughout the series started boiling in the bottom of the third inning on a play at third base. With one out, Machado, the 2013 sensation, singled and then advanced to second on a ground out. Adam Jones then hit a chopper to Josh Donaldson at third, who ran over to tag the advancing Machado. Machado, for reasons that aren’t particularly clear, took offense to Donaldson’s tag and threw his helmet at the A’s third baseman as he tumbled out of the baseline. Benches cleared, but nothing totally unruly came of the incident. It wouldn’t be the last time the A’s would hear from Machado in the series. Later in the game, Donaldson was plunked by Chen in apparent retaliation for the confrontation.
The A’s dropped the second game of the series, 6-3, on Saturday, as heretofore ace Sonny Gray battled command problems and was cuffed around for four runs in five-and-two-thirds innings. Adam Jones and David Lough homered for the Orioles, who took a three-run lead in the fifth inning and never looked back. Youngster Kevin Gausman held the A’s to one run (a Coco Crisp homer) in seven innings to earn his first ever win as a starting pitcher.
The A’s let out whatever frustration they had built up during Saturday’s loss in an 11-1 drubbing of Baltimore in the series rubber match on Sunday. The A’s made quick work of Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez, blasting him out of the box with a six-run third inning, capped by a Brandon Moss grand slam. John Jaso had two hits and four RBIs, and Scott Kazmir, who is quickly asserting himself as the ace of the Oakland staff, threw seven nearly-flawless innings to improve his record to 7-2 and drop his ERA to 2.20.
Of course, tempers flared once again on Sunday behind more antics from Machado. In the sixth inning, Machado hit catcher Derek Norris on the head with not one, but two backswings after swinging and missing at two pitches. Norris came out of the game as a precaution against a potential concussion, but the wry smile and lack of apology from Machado when Norris exited chapped some hides in the Oakland dugout.
In Machado’s next at-bat, in the eighth inning, A’s reliever Fernando Abad opened by throwing a brushback pitch at Machado’s knees. Machado then swung and missed at Abad’s next offering and, in doing so, flung his bat out toward third base. The bat fling was pretty obviously intended to be directed at Abad, and the benches cleared once again. No punches were thrown, but Machado and Abad were ejected. Even the announcers on the Oriole broadcast team seemed convinced Machado threw the bat on purpose, and Machado is likely to receive a suspension for his weekend-long impersonation of a ten-year-old.
Despite winning the series, the A’s actually lost ground to the Angels, who swept their series against the Chicago White Sox. The A’s will now go into Anaheim for a three-game set with the Angels, who are suddenly playing well behind the recently activated Josh Hamilton. The A’s will look to extend their lead in the AL West; conversely, the second-place Angels will look to close the gap in the the division.