In a battle between two teams at the bottom of the Major League standings, the A's were able to best the Orioles by sustaining rallies in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings long enough to exploit the Orioles pitchers' affinity for walks and fend off mathematical elimination from the postseason for at least one more day. It was the A's first victory since Aug. 30, when they defeated the Twins, 3-2.
And the A's can thank the Orioles and their beleaguered pitching staff for the winning and insurance runs, five coming by way of bases-loaded walks. The first two run-scoring free passes were issued to Jack Hannahan, scoring Jack Cust in the sixth and, running for Cust in the eighth, Rajai Davis from third base. After Davis was safely in the dugout with the A's fourth run, the Orioles then walked right fielder Aaron Cunningham, second baseman Eric Patterson and shortstop Bobby Crosby to send three more runs home and cushion the A's lead.
"It was a nice game for us with a nice big inning, which is something that we haven't had a lot of lately," said manager Bob Geren. "The good part about that inning was the plate discipline that we showed. You could look at it as their guys walked our guys, but I like to look at it that we swung at strikes, and because we swung at strikes only, it really helped us."
It was the first time that five bases-loaded walks had been issued in a game since the Cubs walked in five Giants on Sept. 2, 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"I can't say I've actually been in a game where that many guys in one inning [walked]," Davis said. "That was really amazing and something I've never seen before."
Eight batters after he took Cust's place on the bases, Davis tallied the inning's first hit, capping the scoring in the inning. Taking the first pitch he saw just over the left-field wall for a grand slam, Davis gave the A's an untouchable nine-run advantage. The homer was originally called a ground-rule double and an instant replay became an immediate possibility, but the umpires converged and correctly called the ball a home run without the use of video equipment.
"I was talking to [Orioles second baseman Brian] Roberts and he was like, 'You know that ball went out,'" Davis said. "I looked at the kids that were out there, and they were signaling home run, so I was thinking maybe they might overrule it."
Overrule it they did, but at that point the A's had already put the game out of reach by their frequent trips 90 feet down the first-base line.
The Orioles surrendered a total of 10 walks, six of them in the eighth, to the A's lineup -- a number so outrageous that after a certain point, the home crowd was loudly cheering the rare pitches that weren't called balls. When Orioles reliever Kameron Mickolio was able to strike out center fielder Ryan Sweeney in the eighth, it was not only the first out of the inning, but the first at-bat of seven that didn't end in a free pass to first base.
"I think most of the guys had a general idea that they were not throwing strikes," Davis, the only batter not to walk or make an out in the inning, said. "They've been struggling, as a pitching staff, throwing strikes, and that was in the back of our minds. Guys just took advantage of the walks and just took what they gave them."
On the mound, the A's were able to put together one of their best performances in recent days, holding the Orioles to just two runs on five hits after allowing 31 runs in the past four games.
A's starter Dallas Braden, who Geren said was feeling a bit under the weather, gave Oakland five innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits and one walk. The left-hander attributed his ability to limit the Orioles to being able to keep Baltimore's lineup off-balance and using first-pitch strikes to his advantage. Braden tallied three strikeouts before giving way to the Oakland bullpen, which pitched four innings of scoreless relief.
"I felt like I had a couple more [innings in me]," Braden said. "But, obviously, we turn it over to the bullpen and I think we've got the second-best bullpen in baseball right now, and obviously the matchups from there on out work out, so that's a good move."
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.