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Smith, Cust highlight A's win over O's

Smith, Cust highlight A's victory

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BALTIMORE -- The rain from Tropical Storm Hanna washed away Greg Smith's first opportunity to take the mound on Saturday. But given another chance in the nightcap of Oakland's scheduled doubleheader with Baltimore, the left-hander made the most of his opportunity, tossing seven scoreless innings of three-hit baseball to lead the A's over the Orioles, 5-1.

Smith, who in his last start picked up his 14th loss, the most in a season for Oakland since Tom Candiotti lost 16 games in 1998, surrendered his first hit in the second inning but silenced Baltimore's bats from then until the sixth. He did, however, allow five walks, although none cost him a run.

"[I was] very happy with the way Greg Smith threw the ball tonight," said manager Bob Geren. "Tonight's the best he's looked in a long time, so I'm real satisfied with his improvement the last couple times out."

Improvement is something Smith has been actively working toward, making adjustments both in his positioning on the mound as well as incorporating his breaking ball. Both moves paid off for the left-hander, who moved from the first-base side of the pitching rubber -- in an attempt to cut down on his walks -- and now regularly sets himself up directly in the middle. Smith has also been honing his curveball, which he threw 12 times.

"I felt really good," Smith said. "The five walks don't look good, but I felt like I actually pitched and actually got ahead of some hitters, threw strikes. Moving over on the rubber seems to be working out, and I'm pretty comfortable over there.

"It's really not a strikeout pitch or a late-inning count pitch. It's more of a [pitch to] show you I've got it, maybe get ahead in the count. It's just a different pitch to get in the back of their mind, and I can throw it for a strike."

Adjustments in tow, the only noise the Orioles did make against Smith -- outside of the two-hit sixth, which he escaped with a 1-4-3 double play -- came via those five walks. But the southpaw was able to escape any scoring threats Baltimore threw his way and finally watch his own offense put up some runs in his support.

Smith, who has the lowest run support of any pitcher in the Major Leagues, was the benefactor of a sac fly and two solo homers from designated hitter Jack Cust, his 26th and 27th home runs of the season, as well as a solo shot by third baseman Jack Hannahan and an RBI triple from center fielder Rajai Davis.

"As a pitcher, it doesn't help you to worry about run support and things like that," Geren said. "It shouldn't play into your mind. ... But for a guy that has had a bit of bad luck as far as run support, it was nice to get him a lead."

The homers marked a new career high for Cust, eclipsing his previous high of 26 set last season.

"It hasn't been the best of years as a whole, but just to have the home runs is good," Cust said. "We've been struggling offensively as a team ... anything we can do to score some runs. Obviously, the home runs are an easy way to put some runs on the board."

The A's were once again able to exploit Orioles pitching and its current inability to limit walks, working seven, one night after tallying 10 free passes. Six of the seven walks Saturday came off starter Daniel Cabrera, who is now leading the American League in walks with 85.

"Jack Cust leads our team in homers ... had a couple good ones tonight," Geren said. "We need that. It's a big part of the game. I liked it today. We had good pitching, ran the bases well and hit some home runs; that's a really nice combination. I was happy we got the game in, with the poor weather this morning. And then to come out here with a win, it was a nice game for us."

Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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