- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Mark Ellis watched his ball nick the foul pole and thought back to a game-winning homer Marco Scutaro hit last year off Mariano Rivera that went nearly to the same spot.

He hit the first game-winning homer of his career yesterday with two outs in the 10th inning, lifting the Oakland Athletics to a 6-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles for a three-game sweep and their fourth straight victory.

“It’s neat. It’s a cool thing, something you can play your whole career and not do,” Ellis said. “It’s fun to run around the bases and see your teammates at home plate. … It feels good to contribute. It was a pretty bad slump.”

Ellis connected on a 1-0 pitch from loser Lance Cormier (0-1), a solo shot that hit the left-field foul pole and stayed fair. Ellis, batting seventh in Oakland’s order for the second straight day, was in an 0-for-17 funk — after a career-worst 0-for-18 stretch earlier this season — before he singled with two outs in the sixth. The home run was his third this year.

“He’s swung the bat well most of the season, and he went into a little bit of a drought the last six, seven, eight days,” manager Bob Geren said. “You know that sooner or later he’s going to come out of it. I couldn’t think of a better time. That was a real big hit right there.”

Dallas Braden (1-0) pitched 21/3 innings for the victory, and the A’s sent Baltimore to its season-worst fifth straight defeat. Oakland moved to a season-best eight games over .500 at 22-14.

Baltimore’s Melvin Mora hit a go-ahead double in the eighth as the A’s bullpen blew it for starter Joe Blanton, but pinch-hitter Frank Thomas delivered a tying RBI groundout in the bottom half while Jack Hannahan made a hard slide into second to avoid getting doubled up on the play.

“He won us that game today with that slide,” Ellis said. “Not a lot of people are going to remember Hannahan breaking up that double play.”

Brian Roberts singled in two of the Orioles’ three runs in the eighth off Andrew Brown, who had allowed only one run over his first 15 appearances of the season for a 0.52 ERA.

The Orioles have lost seven of eight and have played seven straight games decided by two or fewer runs.

“Any time the games are close you feel like you’re in it,” Cormier said. “Then all of a sudden stuff like this happens, and it’s just a huge letdown, especially after it’s happened over and over again.”

Blanton’s fortunes at home have been nearly as bad. The right-hander, who made his major league-leading ninth start, is 0-5 in seven starts at home this year but seemed poised to break out of that against struggling Baltimore.

Kurt Suzuki hit a two-run homer for his first longball of the year, following Ryan Sweeney’s leadoff triple in the fifth with a shot into the left-field seats. Hannahan doubled in a key insurance run in the sixth.

Blanton allowed leadoff hits in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings but found ways to get out of trouble until the sixth.

He helped turn a key double play in the second. Luke Scott led off the inning with a double, and Kevin Millar followed with a single before Jay Payton lined one to the pitcher and Blanton threw Scott out at third. Blanton then retired Ramon Hernandez on a called third strike.

Baltimore loaded the bases in the fourth after Millar and Payton drew consecutive two-out walks, but after pitching coach Curt Young visited the mound, Blanton got Hernandez to ground out to end the threat.

Baltimore’s Aubrey Huff went 0-for-5 to end his 10-game hitting streak.

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