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BAL@OAK: Geren on A's comeback win over Orioles

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Geren's glass, seemingly always half-full of nothing but positive vibes, is likely overflowing after Sunday's 6-4 victory over the Orioles.

Geren watched his club combine for double-digit hits for a fourth straight game and, in doing so, conclude its first three-game series sweep of the season -- while also reaching the .500 mark for the 14th time this season, to separate the American League West by just 1 1/2 games.

Toss in two-time All-Star Andrew Bailey's perfect one-inning season debut, and it's hard to imagine the momentum being greater any time before now for the A's, who have won five of their last six games following a season-high six-game losing streak.

"It's as good as I can remember this year, for sure," Geren acknowledged after the game. "We obviously enjoy this win for an hour or two, but then we go home and prepare for New York."

Welcoming the Yankees for three games beginning on Monday perhaps couldn't come at a better time for an A's team that's hitting .312 over its last four games -- much of it the result of hitters coming through in two-out situations, where they previously struggled.

"They got the big hits," Baltimore's Mark Reynolds said. "It seemed like they had 20 two-out hits in the series."

Undoubtedly, the biggest two-out hit on Sunday came from Josh Willingham, who was responsible for pushing the A's ahead by launching one from Baltimore's Zach Britton over the left-field wall for a three-run homer that turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead in a four-run fifth inning.

"When he hits 'em, you don't even have to look," Geren said. "When he hits 'em, you know."

It marked the outfielder's team-high ninth long ball of the season, and came on the last of a nine-pitch battle with Baltimore's rookie sensation, via a changeup.

"He's a good hitter," Britton said. "I shouldn't let him beat me on my second-best pitch -- especially in that situation. [Catcher] Matt [Wieters] wanted a sinker -- and that's the right pitch at the time -- and I was over-thinking it, wanted to fool him and it didn't work."

"I was just battling," Willingham said. "He 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."

Willingham went 5-for-11 in the weekend set and tallied four RBIs in Sunday's matinee finale, the first of which came in the first inning via a run-scoring single that plated Daric Barton, who notched the first of 10 Oakland hits on the day with a one-out, line-drive hit to left field.

A's starter Guillermo Moscoso, making his second start for the injured Tyson Ross, cruised through the first four innings on just 40 pitches. The righty stalled in the fifth, though, as the Orioles sent eight men to the plate and placed a four-spot on the board.

However, Oakland's offensive efforts in the bottom of the frame put him back in line for his second straight win, which was made possible thanks to four scoreless innings from the bullpen following Moscoso's departure after five.

Among the contributors was Bailey, who garnered three quick groundball outs in the seventh while making his first appearance since Sept. 17. The A's right-hander, who was activated on Sunday following two months of rehab from a forearm strain, made effective use of his cutter and a fastball that regularly reached 93 and 94 [mph] on the radar gun.

"I felt really good out there," Bailey said. "It was nice to get back and help the team win the ballgame today, and get the butterflies out of the stomach on the first pitch. Going into your first outing of the year, you're just trying to throw strikes. It was nice to get out there and feel healthy on my first pitch and be like, 'OK, it's go time now.'"

Bailey was greeted by a loud reception from more than 15,000 fans in attendance, who were happy to see their All-Star back in action in any inning -- be it the seventh or the ninth, as he gradually eases back into the closer's role.

"It was nice to get out there and feel the love," he said. "It was nice that everyone realized that I was back and pitching. I definitely heard it. We feed off that type of stuff. It definitely pumps you up, and makes you want to go out and compete that much harder."

Said Barton: "It was weird seeing him in the seventh, but I think it gives our team that much more confidence, knowing that he's going to do his job. He feels good and he looked really good."

Confidence is what the A's have been looking for over a consistent stretch this year, and they hope Sunday's victory marked the continuation of what could be a lengthy stay of it.

"We get some good hitting and timely hitting, that's how we gotta win ballgames," Bailey said. "That's what the front office built this team to do -- to compete -- and we're right there. This is a tough division, and we're really close right now.

"The clubhouse is completely different when you're winning, for sure," Willingham said. "It's one of those things where we're playing more consistent baseball, and I think, as a team, that's all you can really ask for, to be consistent in all three phases of the game and play up to our capabilities. And I feel like we have been lately."

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