OAKLAND — Chris Smith became the latest A’s pitcher to get bit by the home run bug.
The 36-year-old right-hander entered the night having allowed only five round-trippers in 24 innings this season, but he surrendered four in just six innings of work in Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Smith allowed back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches to Adam Jones and Trey Mancini in the fourth. The same exact sequence occurred in the sixth as Smith allowed another home run to Mancini and Mark Trumbo to put the A’s in a 5-1 hole. It was the seventh home run the A’s staff had allowed in its last 14 innings pitched.
After becoming the oldest player to make his first major-league start on July 8, Smith still continues to search for that elusive first win as a starter. That achievement may become even more difficult to obtain if Smith is moved back to a long relief role in the bullpen, with the A’s expected to call up their younger starting pitchers from the minor leagues in the final months of the season.
Rajai Davis manufactured the A’s first run of the night on his own in the first inning. After leading off with a single, Davis stole second and advanced to third after the throw was mishandled by Tim Beckham. Davis eventually came in to the score 1-1 on a sacrifice fly by Jed Lowrie.
Davis continues to turn it on in the second half; he is coming off a month of July in which he batted .317. After struggling as primarily a bench player who started against righties early on in the season, manager Bob Melvin believes Davis is settling in nicely to his new role this season.
“It was tough for him to get on a roll for a guy that’s used to consistent at-bats and I think now he’s acclimated and understands the role and can prepare for it,” Melvin said. “Now you’re seeing what Raj can do. In the last month or so he’s done really well and he’s the one guy that really knows how to lead off and impact a game with his legs so it’s nice to have him playing well.”
Lowrie added another run in the eighth on a double down the right field line that brought home Marcus Semien, but the A’s still found themselves facing a five-run deficit.
Semien committed an error in the seventh on an errant throw to Matt Olson. It was the club’s 96th error through 115 games this year. The A’s committed a total of 97 all last season.
Matt Chapman left the game just before the start of the fourth inning with an undisclosed illness.
Josh Phegley is on track to return quicker than most do from his oblique injury.
Normally requiring at least a month for such an injury, Phegley is already taking swings in the cage and is expected to participate in pre-game batting practice on the field at some point over the weekend.
The catcher has also begun to catch bullpen sessions and could begin a rehab assignment as early as the beginning of next week.
“Everything’s progressing really well so I feel pretty solid. Health-wise, I’m right there,” Phegley said. “I know it all depends on how the next few days go but everything’s going pretty well. I’m eyeing hopefully the beginning of next week some time but it’s not my call.”