OAKLAND — Jorge Mateo slowed as he reached second base.
It looked as though it was going to be a typical double, the ball flying directly toward the A’s outfielders. But it bounced off the wall, ricocheting out to center field. Mateo went into power mode, picking up steam as he approached third, his helmet flying off as the A’s scrambled. He was waved home, sliding headfirst into the plate.
Mateo had an inside-the-park home run, just the 25th in team history. It provided a spark for the Orioles, who went on to beat the A’s 12-1 to sweep the series and end their nine-game foray out west 6-3.
The Orioles (77-47) are 30 games above .500 for the first time since 2014. They are three games ahead of the Rays in the American League East.
“A 6-3 road trip is really impressive. It just shows the grit and grind of the guys and how much they fought,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s not easy to come out to the West Coast. Everyone is tired today. Everyone’s tired the last couple of days. The travel gets to you, different time zone, the whole thing. I’ve seen it go the other way. I’m really proud of our guys for fighting all nine of these games.”
It was Mateo’s first home run since April 30, as his production, and playing time, has slowed since the opening month. The team has kept him around, eating up a roster spot, because of his slightly above-average defense at shortstop and, more importantly, his speed, which ranks in the top 10 in the league. He showcased it there, with his ability to turn what could have been just a double into a run.
Mateo said his inside-the-park home run ranks second on his career accomplishment list, behind only his major league debut.
“It just felt really good to go out there and help the team win today,” Mateo said. “That’s the most important thing.”
That play was just another example of a team that keeps finding ways to win, even when two of its veterans — Aaron Hicks and Anthony Santander — are sidelined with back issues.
The Orioles have a rookie who, every night it seems, is a hit away from the cycle. On Sunday, Gunnar Henderson came up just a single shy, hitting two doubles, a triple and his team-leading 21st home run. He had a chance in the eighth to become the eighth player in Orioles history to hit for the cycle, but he hit the ball too hard and ended up at second base instead of first.
His teammates gave him grief for not stopping at first, but Henderson doesn’t regret his decision.
“Just playing the game the right way,” he said. “It just so happened to be a double.”
Ryan Mountcastle also had another nice day, recording three hits, including a three-run home run. He’s hitting just below .400 since returning from the injured list with vertigo July 19.
Then there’s Kyle Bradish, who has quietly become one of the most consistent starters in the league. He pitched six shutout innings against the A’s, allowing just two hits and walking one.
Bradish didn’t allow a hit until the fourth, striking out seven of the first nine batters he faced. He leads the team with a 3.03 ERA, with a 2.50 ERA since the All-Star break.
“I’m just doing me,” Bradish said. “I know I’m capable of doing this every time out. Just locating the ball, I know I have good stuff. Going out there, putting up good numbers and having a good offense behind me. The whole team is playing good ball right now.”