Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's fall to Orioles' four home runs

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's fall to Orioles' four home runs

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — The Baltimore Orioles know how to punish a pitcher for mistake pitches.

Chris Smith found out the hard way.

The Orioles twice homered on back-to-back pitches off the right-hander as Baltimore hung a 7-2 loss on the A’s to begin a four-game series at the Coliseum.

Baltimore, despite being a game under .500, finds itself very much in the American League Wild Card chase, and the Orioles must be looking at this extended weekend stay in Oakland as a chance to make a move.

The A’s would like to spoil their chances, but that’s only going to happen if their starting pitching turns things around. Smith (0-2) gave up a career-high four homers and allowed five runs over six innings, elevating the rotation’s ERA to 7.14 over the last 13 games.

Baltimore collected 10 hits. Amazingly, the first nine of them went for extra bases. Here’s five things to know as the A’s lost for the fifth time in the past seven games:

STATING HIS CASE: If not for the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, Baltimore first baseman Trey Mancini would be making a serious push as an AL Rookie of the Year candidate. He went deep twice off Smith, hitting the back end of consecutive homers with Adam Jones in the fourth and handling the front end with Mark Trumbo in the sixth. Mancini is hitting .296 with 20 homers and 60 RBI.

A SPARK AT THE TOP: With just seven hits, the A’s didn’t have much going offensively. But Rajai Davis continues to ignite things from the leadoff spot. He led off the bottom of the first with a single. Orioles lefty Wade Miley (6-9) had him picked off first but Davis was safe at second anyway and advanced to third when Mancini’s throw went into left field. Then Davis came home on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly. Over his past 25 games, Davis is hitting .329 (23-for-70).

TRENDING THE WRONG WAY: Smith, solid for the A’s over his first three starts, has now allowed 13 runs over 15 innings in his past three outings (one of them in relief).

PHEGLEY UPDATE: If all continues to go well for Josh Phegley, the catcher hopes to begin a minor league rehab assignment early next week as he works back from a strained left oblique. Phegley caught a couple of bullpen sessions Thursday and took 50 swings with the bat Wednesday. He hasn’t played since July 24

CHAPMAN’S EARLY EXIT: Matt Chapman exited the game after three innings with what the A’s announced as an illness. Ryon Healy shifted from first to third base to replace him, and Matt Olson entered the game to play first.

Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?

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USATI

Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?

Don’t count out top prospect Franklin Barreto as a possibility for the A’s in center field.

It’s long been speculated that the middle infielder might eventually get a look in center, and the idea has at least been discussed in team circles. It’s tied partially to whether the A’s exercise their $6 million club option on Jed Lowrie and bring him back as their regular second baseman in 2018.

Regardless, the battle to be Oakland’s everyday center fielder will be one of the A’s most intriguing storylines next spring. Grady Fuson, a special assistant to general manager David Forst who spends much of the season evaluating the team’s farm system, discussed several of the team’s center field options in the latest A’s Insider Podcast.

So much revolves around the health of 22-year-old Dustin Fowler, one of three prospects the A’s received from the Yankees for Sonny Gray. He’ll spend the winter continuing to rehab from a devastating knee injury suffered in his very first major league game in June while still with New York.

The A’s are hopeful he’ll be ready for spring training and believe he can be a solution in center.

“Fowler certainly is the guy we made this trade for, and I think everybody, top to bottom, in the system is counting on him taking that spot,” Fuson said. “But we all know he’s been hurt. How he comes back, who knows? Boog (Powell’s) been doing a very good job for us. And there’s other options.”

The 21-year-old Barreto, who has split time between second and short this season at Triple-A and with the big club, played some center in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2015. He’s always talked with enthusiasm about the idea.

The A’s experimented with another highly touted young infielder, Yairo Munoz, in center field in the minors this season.

“(We’ve) had discussions about taking Munoz out there, which we’ve done,” Fuson said. “We’ve had discussions about maybe Franklin Barreto, depending on what happens at second here at end of the year, over the winter, and early in camp.”

Lowrie has enjoyed a very strong season with Oakland, and A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has said the team is seriously considering picking up his option. Having Barreto be an option in center could be a way to keep him in the majors in 2018 even if Lowrie returns at second base.

Fuson stressed that the idea of Barreto in center hasn’t advanced past the early-discussion phase. No decisions have been made.

What’s interesting is that, in a short time, the A’s have gone from scarce few center field options to suddenly having several. Powell and Fowler may enter the spring as front runners, but Munoz, Jaycob Brugman, Chad Pinder, Jake Smolinski and, perhaps, Barreto may all have a shot too.

The A’s also used their first-round pick in June on high school center fielder Austin Beck, who represents another option down the road.

Bob Melvin provides update on Bruce Maxwell after 'pretty good shot' to face

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Bob Melvin provides update on Bruce Maxwell after 'pretty good shot' to face

A's catcher Bruce Maxwell has a history with foul tips and concussion concerns, so there was cause for concern after he took a direct shot during Wednesday's game against the Tigers.

With one out in the ninth inning, Tigers shortstop fouled a ball square into Maxwell's facemask. The A's catcher immediately fell backwards. As manager Bob Melvin and the team trainer checked on him, he appeared dazed and rubbed his eyes. In an attempt to try to stay in the game, reliever Liam Hendriks tossed two warmup pitches. Maxwell missed the first one, but even after he caught the second one, it was clear he wasn't right and was removed from the game.

Afterwards, Melvin was asked about Maxwell's status.

"He went through all the protocol. It doesn't look like a concussion at this point. We'll probably know more in the next couple of days," Melvin told reporters in Detroit. "Took a pretty good shot. More sore on his face because of where the impact was, which was right in the middle of his face."

Josh Phegley replaced Maxwell for the final two outs of the game. Hendriks managed to close out the 3-2 win for the A's.