BALTIMORE (AP) - Brian Roberts had to endure a tremendous amount of hardship waiting for the chance to contribute to a playoff run.
Now, finally, it all seems worth it.
Roberts hit a grand slam, Adam Jones homered and had three RBIs, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Oakland Athletics 9-7 Friday night to gain ground in the wild-card race.
It's been a grind for the 35-year-old Roberts over the past few years. He's had to deal with one injury after another, from a serious concussion to a groin strain to hip surgery. He was powerless to do anything but watch last year as the Orioles made their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years.
This season, after another bout with injuries, Roberts is finally playing the role he longed for since launching his major league career in 2001.
``It's fun. This is what we all play for,' he said. ``You want to be in the race in August and September, and I haven't had a whole lot of opportunities to do that in my career. Unfortunately missed the fun last year. So to be able to contribute and be a part of it and just be one of the 25 guys is awesome.'
Roberts and Jones connected in a six-run fourth inning that put Baltimore up 6-3. After Oakland rallied to take the lead, Jones drove in the go-ahead run during a three-run seventh.
The victory moved the Orioles past Cleveland into third place in the wild-card hunt. Tampa Bay is on top and Baltimore now stands two games behind Oakland. The top two teams make the playoffs.
Making his fifth start for Baltimore since coming in a trade with Houston, Bud Norris yielded seven runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings. In four appearances against Oakland this season, he's 0-3 with a 9.35 ERA.
``This is about the team battling back,' Norris said. ``They picked me up. To win that one, the first game of the series, is huge.'
Coco Crisp homered, had a career-high tying four hits and scored three runs for the A's, who have lost four of six and are 15-17 since the All-Star break.
``We're going to go out there and play as hard as we can, and if we end up making it to the playoffs that would be fantastic,' Crisp said. ``If not, we knew we gave it our best shot and that's what everyone in here is doing right now.'
In the Baltimore seventh, Jesse Chavez walked Nate McLouth and was replaced by Ryan Cook (5-3). A single by Manny Machado put runners at the corners, and McLouth scored when second baseman Eric Sogard misplayed a grounder by Chris Davis. Jones followed with a run-scoring groundout and Nick Markakis capped the uprising with an RBI single.
Francisco Rodriguez (2-0) got the win and Jim Johnson, the fourth Baltimore reliever, worked a perfect ninth for his 40th save. He had blown his previous three attempts.
``You could see the look in his eye,' Roberts said. ``I thought tonight he came out really aggressive. He threw the ball incredible. We all looked at each other and were like, `Whoa. This is almost a different guy.''
The victory assured the Orioles their first season series win over Oakland since 1998. They've won four of five with two to play.
A's starter Dan Straily allowed six runs, four hits and four walks in 3 1-3 innings. Although he walked off the mound with the A's trailing 6-3, the right-hander avoided losing his sixth straight decision when Oakland took the lead with a four-run fifth.
Crisp led off the fifth with a single and scored on a double by Jed Lowrie, who came home on a single by Josh Donaldson. Following a double play, two walks and a single loaded the bases and ended Norris' night. Troy Patton then gave up a two-run single to Sogard.
Oakland got a first-inning run when Crisp led off with a single and scored on a two-out single by Brandon Moss.
Crisp and Moss hit solo shots to right field in the third, even though Norris struck out the side.
At that point, the A's were sailing. Then came the Baltimore fourth inning.
Davis drew a walk and Jones followed with an opposite-field drive to right. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for Roberts, who hit a high fly to right that plopped onto the flag court beyond the 25-foot scoreboard for his sixth career grand slam, the first since 2009.
NOTES: Straily has allowed 11 homers in his last 11 starts . ... The A's acquired C Kurt Suzuki in a trade with Washington. Suzuki fills the void left by the absence of John Jaso (concussion) and Derek Norris (broken toe). ... Baltimore sold minor league pitcher Freddy Garcia to Atlanta. ... Oakland RF Josh Reddick (wrist) took full batting practice Friday and could return Saturday. ... A's OF Seth Smith was back in the lineup for the first time in almost a week because of an astigmatism.
The Associated Press News Service
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