OAKLAND -- The A's were trailing 2-0 Saturday night when shortstop Stephen Drew, leading off the bottom of the third inning, stepped to the plate to face Baltimore left-hander Zach Britton.
Drew launched a 3-1 pitch over the right-field wall for a solo home run, igniting a five-run rally and lifting the surging A's to a 5-2 victory over Orioles at the Oakland Coliseum.
"That was big," said A's rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker, who allowed just two runs over seven innings to earn his 11th win of the season. "That kind of got us going. Early on I think we were a little dead. He was able to put a great swing on a ball and I think it kind of jump-started everything that happened that inning."The A's increased their lead in the American League Wild Card race to three games over Baltimore and pulled to within two games of Texas in the AL West. The A's haven't been this close to first place in the West since April 13, when they were also two games back. The A's have won eight off their past nine games and the first two games in their three-game series with the Orioles. Drew hurt the Orioles with his bat, his glove and his arm, making a series of highlight-reel defensive plays, including one gem in the fourth when Baltimore's Adam Jones tried to score from first on Chris Davis' double down the left-field line. Drew took the relay from Yoenis Cespedes and fired a strike to catcher Derek Norris, who applied a sweep tag before Jones reached the plate. Drew, who came to Oakland from Arizona in an Aug. 20 trade, said he thought he had a good shot at getting Jones before unleashing his throw to the plate. "Yeah, I did, actually," Drew said. "With [Cespedes] going out there and making a good throw to me, I kind of could tell looking back that he was going to send him. So I knew right away that he was going home. I thought we had a good shot if we could just make that perfect relay and we did." Jones blamed himself for slowing down as he approached third base. "I did and I'm still disappointed in myself," Jones said. "I looked at the replay and came in here and have seen the actual video. But I remember. And I did slow down the first couple steps right before third base. That's something I never do. I score on the balls down the line, I score on most doubles, because that's just how it works. ... I'm still frustrated about it right now, because having a chance at the score 5-3 with no outs, man on second base, it changed the dynamics of the game, rather than 5-2 with a man on second." Drew began his defensive clinic in the second inning. With a run in, one out and Mark Reynolds on second base, Drew fielded a ground ball by Manny Machado and caught Reynolds too far off the bag. He ran him toward third and threw to Josh Donaldson, who tagged Reynolds for the second out. In the fifth, Drew made a diving catch of Robert Andino's low liner. Then in the seventh he ranged far to his left to snag Endy Chavez's grounder and flip the ball directly from his glove to second baseman Adam Rosales to force Reynolds at second. "It's more difficult than probably sometimes what it looks like," Drew said of his flip to Rosales. "If I grab it out of the glove and barehand it and flip it to him, it takes a lot longer than just getting it out of my glove, especially running the other way. Sometimes that can be risky, but I felt like I've done it plenty of times in practice to be comfortable doing it in games." Parker enjoyed every second of Drew's defensive show.
"That's what's fun to watch," Parker said. "He's able to make some great plays and it really helps out mentally for me to continue attacking and trusting that he's going to make every play up the middle."
The A's spotted Baltimore a 2-0 lead before scoring five times in the third. They batted around, sending 10 men to the plate. It was Drew's second home run since coming to the A's and his fourth overall this season.Britton walked Coco Crisp with one out then hit Jonny Gomes in the left elbow. With the Orioles playing him to pull, Josh Reddick grounded an opposite field RBI single to left. Cespedes singled sharply to center, scoring Gomes to put the A's ahead 3-2. Then with a boisterous crowd of 20,342 chanting, "Let's Go Oakland," Chris Carter stroked an opposite-field double into the right-field corner, scoring Reddick and Cespedes. "It's been fun being here," Drew said. "It's kind of crazy how this team works sometimes. It's 2-1 and then I come up again for the second time in the same inning. That's a good feeling to have on this team. Anybody, anytime. It works out well."
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.