OAKLAND -- Throughout the course of an incredibly promising rookie campaign, Orioles starter Zach Britton was bound to have one of these starts, a disappointing 5 2/3-inning outing in which the 23-year-old surrendered a career-high six earned runs.
But given the events that preceded Sunday's 6-4 series-sweeping loss, which included an in-game injury to starting center fielder Adam Jones and a pair of subpar starting pitching performances and subsequent demotions for Oriole arms Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman, Britton's misstep didn't feel like a small blip -- it felt like a sucker punch.
"Anytime you get swept, it's disappointing -- especially with the streak we were on," said Britton, referencing the season-high five-game winning streak the Orioles arrived in Oakland with.
"This is a team that I think we should handle. But obviously we didn't pitch well enough, we didn't go deep into games, we abused our bullpen. When you do that stuff, you are not going to win many games."
Especially in Oakland. Sunday's loss capped a dismal three-game slide in which the Orioles allowed 17 two-out hits, leading to 12 of the A's 16 runs. It also kept the O's winless at the Oakland Coliseum, a house of horrors inside which Baltimore has gone 1-12 since 2008. They have been outscored 66-36 over that stretch.
"It seemed like they had 20 two-out hits in the series," third baseman Mark Reynolds said of an A's team that recorded 10 or more hits in all three of the weekend games. "It kind of deflates you a little bit. But we're out of here now, heading up north. It's good to be done with Oakland."
Winless in his last five starts, Britton didn't blame anyone but himself for Sunday's loss. A victim of poor run support all season, the young lefty put his team in the hole just 14 pitches in, as Josh Willingham singled in Daric Barton for a quick first-inning score. Willingham delivered the fatal blow in the fifth, blasting a go-ahead three-run homer that proved to be Britton's demise.
"I was just battling," Willingham said of the fateful at-bat, which resulted in him drilling a full-count changeup into the left-field stands. "[Britton] was battling, trying to make a pitch. And I fouled a couple pitches off and he left one up out [over] the plate, and I was able to hit it hard."
It was an instantly regrettable decision by Britton, who shook off catcher Matt Wieters' call for his sinker, and instead went with his second consecutive changeup.
"I was overthinking it, wanted to fool him and it didn't work," Britton said.
"I feel like if they give me four runs in a game [on offense], we shouldn't lose. Especially the way we scrapped that [fifth] inning and really battled to get those runs in. To give it up and let them take the lead is really disappointing. It's all on me."
An Orioles offense that had scored just two runs while Britton was in the game in his previous four starts, staked him to a three-run lead in the top of the fifth. The O's loaded the bases with no outs after getting a pair of singles from J.J. Hardy and Reynolds, and a break on Robert Andino's sacrifice bunt -- which television replays showed Kevin Kouzmanoff making the catch ahead of Reynolds at third base. But umpire Chad Fairchild ruled it no catch, putting the pressure on A's starter Guillermo Moscoso.
Felix Pie evened things up with an RBI liner to center field that a diving Coco Crisp almost caught. Crisp laid out as the ball hit and bounced out of his glove, allowing Hardy to score. Nolan Reimold -- who entered the game in the bottom of the fourth in lieu of Jones -- worked a walk for another run, and Nick Markakis and Vladimir Guerrero each chipped in RBI groundouts to cap the O's scoring at four.
But Britton gave it right back, in an outing marred by Willingham's homer and ended after Barton's sacrifice fly two outs into the sixth.
"It kind of weighs on the team mentally," manager Buck Showalter said of immediately relinquishing the lead. "We were able to take advantage of the bases-loaded, no-out situation and get some runs. We said it in the dugout, 'That's a big inning.' [Britton was] one pitch away there. Just didn't make it."
While Britton put Sunday's loss squarely on his shoulders, the series sweep was an all-around ugly one for the Orioles. Besides the demotion of two-fifths of their starting rotation, Baltimore's bats went 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position, leaving 22 men on base and hitting into seven double plays. Despite a trio of unimpressive starts from the A's pitchers, Oakland's pen put up 11 scoreless innings over the weekend set, ensuring their first sweep of the season.
"It's frustrating," said Jones, who left with a sore right shoulder prior to the bottom of the fourth inning. "But are you going to cry about [being swept]? You're not going to cry about it. You move on."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.