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Powell's power helps lift A's over O's

Powell's power helps lift A's over O's

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BALTIMORE -- Prior to Wednesday's game, Landon Powell's grandparents had never seen their grandson hit a home run, or even play in a Major League tilt.

Now, they can say they've witnessed both.

The A's catcher, whose majority of his family resides on the East Coast, hit his third home run of the season Wednesday, propelling Oakland to a 6-3 win over Baltimore, and leaving Powell with some family memories to cherish.

"My grandparents are in their 80s and they've never seen me play a professional game, so it was kind of cool," Powell said. "With the A's organization, everything is out on the West Coast and they can't travel a whole lot, so it was exciting."

Powell got the start in Wednesday's matinee in order to give Oakland's usual backstop, Kurt Suzuki, a day of rest, manager Bob Geren had said after Tuesday's game. The first-year player entered Wednesday's game batting .253 with just two home runs and 18 RBIs.

But it was his bat that ignited the offense in the fourth inning against Orioles starter Jason Berken. After Tommy Everidge led off the inning with a double, Ryan Sweeney hit a single, putting runners at the corners with no outs. After a sacrifice fly sent Everidge in for the game's first run, Powell stepped to the plate, and quickly turned a one-run cushion into a three-run lead for Oakland, taking a changeup onto the flag court at Camden Yards.

Powell was a force again in the seventh inning -- only this time from behind the plate. With the O's already having climbed back into the game with three runs in the sixth, Baltimore was threatening once again, with Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts on first and second, respectively.

With Aubrey Huff batting, the baserunners attempted a double steal. Rather than try for the dangerous out with Roberts at third, Powell gunned the ball to second base, nailing Markakis on the throw for the second out of the inning. Huff would go on to strike out, ending the inning, and leaving Roberts stranded at third.

"I'll tell you the home run was big, but throwing the guy out at second base was the biggest play right there," Geren said. "One out, [Craig] Breslow can read the guy at first, and Roberts is an intelligent baserunner. That cat and mouse game went on forever. Then when he got to second it's not quite as easy to handle that, so we decided to throw to second instead, and it was a beautiful throw."

While Powell was impressing his family and others watching with his bat and glove, A's starter Vin Mazzaro made his second successive solid start and picked up his fourth win this season. Mazzaro went 5 1/3 innings, giving up just two earned runs and issuing only one walk.

Both runs allowed by Mazzaro came in the sixth inning, as Huff hit his 13th home of the season, cutting the A's lead to 4-2. Mazzaro was pulled three batters later after an error by center fielder Rajai Davis allowed the Orioles to score their third run in the inning.

Fortunately, the bullpen closed the door on the Orioles' threat, while the A's offense added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings.

"I just went in there and tried to work the zone with the fastball," Mazzaro said, "and I was hitting my spots with that. My secondary pitches were working pretty well for me, too."

The A's will take the momentum of the three-game series win back home, where visits from the White Sox and Yankees will force the team to remain sharp both offensively and with the pitching. But that won't come before a "much-needed" day off for the club, its first in 28 days. For Geren and the rest of the staff, the past 28 days have been a good barometer for where the team is headed in the future.

"You look at the 28 days, and who we were going to play and how much we were going to travel," Geren said, "and you could look at it as how difficult it was going to be, but guys rose to the challenge, and everybody did a heck of a job. They all deserve a lot of credit for doing that."

Brian Eller 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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