BALTIMORE — It seemed like a fairly innocent play. Catcher Chad Moeller grounded a ball up the middle to start the bottom of the fifth inning, it ricocheted off Trevor Cahill's glove and rolled into shallow left field.
But it also — at least momentarily — affected Cahill's performance, as the hit started a two-run rally that eventually led to a 3-2 Baltimore Orioles victory over the A's at Camden Yards on Tuesday. After the inning, the normally mild-mannered Cahill threw his glove down when he reached the dugout.
"I knew I shouldn't have touched it right when I tried to bring my glove away," Cahill said. "It hit off of my glove, and I just kind of let things unravel. I was just disappointed that I didn't let it go."
Moeller's hit was one of eight surrendered by Cahill, who still has not won since July 22, when he pitched seven innings against the Minnesota Twins.
But Tuesday's outing can be viewed as a step in the right direction. Cahill (6-12) stranded three runners in the first three innings and retired the last eight batters he faced after giving up three singles in the fifth. It was also only the third time in 24 starts that he hasn't issued a walk and the first time in 10 starts that he didn't allow a home run.
In his previous three starts — against Boston, Toronto and Texas — Cahill gave up a combined 17 earned runs, five homers and 13 walks as his ERA went from 4.50 to 5.13.
The loss snapped the A's nine-game win streak over the Orioles, but Oakland still can clinch a season-best third straight series victory with a win today.
"That's what I've been trying to do, go deep in the game. And I was really happy I didn't walk anybody," Cahill said. "That's kind of how I've been struggling this year. I fell behind a couple times, but I was still able to get some outs."
The A's had a chance to tie the game in the ninth as Tommy Everidge singled to open the inning. After Ryan Sweeney grounded out, Mark Ellis grounded to third baseman Melvin Mora, who bobbled the ball before throwing to first base.
Ellis was called out by umpire Ted Barrett, although television replays indicated he was safe. A's manager Bob Geren argued to no avail, and pinch hitter Nomar Garciaparra flied out to center field in his first at-bat since Aug. 6 to end the game.
"There's nine innings of baseball," Geren said. "You can't blame anything on one play or one call ever."
In his first start against the A's, the Orioles' David Hernandez (4-4) went 62/3 innings and allowed six hits and had six strikeouts.
Scott Hairston hit a solo home run to left in the fourth, and Adam Kennedy gave the A's the lead in the top of the fifth with another solo shot to right-center.
The A's have hit nine homers in the first five games of this six-game road trip.
"He has a good fastball, and he comes after you," Kennedy said of Hernandez. "Pitchers usually have the advantage when you're not familiar with them. He's got a good arm."