Chris Smith

Journeyman Chris Smith's unique run with A's comes to an end

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Journeyman Chris Smith's unique run with A's comes to an end

The next chapter of Chris Smith’s long and winding baseball career will unfold outside of Oakland.

The pitcher was outrighted off the A’s 40-man roster and chose to become a free agent.

Smith’s stats in an A’s uniform won’t jump off the page, but the 36-year-old journeyman made an impact over his two years in the organization, serving as an example of perseverance and positive energy for the much younger pitchers on the staff.

He spent six years away from the majors before catching on with the A’s in 2016 and appearing in 13 games out of the bullpen. That time away saw him pitch for two indy league teams and even enroll at UC Riverside and serve as an undergraduate coach with the Highlanders when it appeared his playing days were done.

It’s no surprise, then, that Smith wore a huge grin as he approached a start at Safeco Field this past July, making him the oldest pitcher in A’s history to be making his first career major league start. The right-hander was solid over his first three starts, allowing seven earned runs over 19 innings and providing some reinforcement for an injury-plagued and inconsistent starting staff. He’d encounter rockier times in both a starting and relieving role for the rest of the season, finishing with an 0-4 record and 6.79 ERA in 14 games (9 starts).

Smith’s big league debut came back in 2008 with Boston. That’s also the season he recorded his only career victory to date.

The A’s have numerous younger pitchers they will turn to next season. But they’re also expected to spend a bulk of their offseason efforts trying to fortify their pitching staff, both the rotation and bullpen, after finishing 12th in the American League with a 4.67 team ERA.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Athletics' rough loss to Angels

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Athletics' rough loss to Angels

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ANAHEIM — Chris Smith continues to draw praise off the field for his sage-like advice to the A’s younger pitchers.

It hasn’t been going quite so smoothly on the field. The 36-year-old veteran got knocked around for five runs in the first inning Tuesday night, and that was a hole the A’s couldn’t escape from in an 8-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.

C.J. Cron did the big damage with a three-run homer in that early barrage, one of two home runs the first baseman blasted off Oakland pitching.

Smith lasted just 3 2/3 innings and was charged with seven runs (six earned). He also allowed Martin Maldonado’s solo blast in the fourth. The right-hander was a terrific story when he entered the A’s rotation in early July, becoming the oldest A’s pitcher to ever make his first major league start and completing a career odyssey that included a brief retirement and a stint in independent league ball.

But the long ball has been his Achilles heel. Smith (0-4) has allowed 13 homers in nine outings (eight starts) with the A’s this season. His ERA has risen from 2.77 on July 18 to its current 6.27.

TIMETABLE UNCERTAIN FOR BLACKBURN: The right hand injury to Paul Blackburn is one reason Smith has remained in the rotation despite his struggles. An MRI on Blackburn’s hand Monday revealed no fracture, but A’s manager Bob Melvin said there’s no timetable for when Blackburn will start throwing.

“He’s just doing strengthening stuff right now, plyometric stuff,” Melvin said. “Obviously the farther out we go without him throwing, the more extensive it will be getting him back. That’s where it is right now.”

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE … Matt Olson homered in the second, his 10th on the season. Along with Matt Chapman and Chad Pinder, the A’s have three rookies with 10-plus homers for only the second time in their Oakland history. Wayne Gross, Mitchell Page and Tony Armas did it in 1977.

MILESTONE FOR JOYCE: Matt Joyce also went deep in the second, as the A’s showed some life to trim a 5-0 deficit to 5-2. It was Joyce’s 20th homer, his first time reaching that milestone in 10 major league seasons.

TROUT-FREE ZONE: The Angels have taken the first two of this three-game series despite MVP candidate Mike Trout missing both games with a sore neck after a collision with the outfield wall. Trout is expected to return Wednesday night.

SOME UNWANTED HISTORY: The A’s broke the franchise record with their 73rd wild pitch in Monday night’s defeat. That’s not the way manager Bob Melvin wants his team to carve out a spot in the record books. But Melvin, a former catcher, doesn’t think his pitchers should shoulder 100 percent of the responsibility for this stat.

“You don’t want to give up extra bases like that,” he said. “I think there’s been some times maybe with some breaking balls that we’ve tried to pick some balls as opposed to blocking them, here recently too. It’s not just the pitchers. You have to feel like, at least on a breaking ball, every time a breaking ball is in the dirt it’s your job to block it. So it definitely is shared.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's fall to Orioles' four home runs

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as A's fall to Orioles' four home runs

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND — The Baltimore Orioles know how to punish a pitcher for mistake pitches.

Chris Smith found out the hard way.

The Orioles twice homered on back-to-back pitches off the right-hander as Baltimore hung a 7-2 loss on the A’s to begin a four-game series at the Coliseum.

Baltimore, despite being a game under .500, finds itself very much in the American League Wild Card chase, and the Orioles must be looking at this extended weekend stay in Oakland as a chance to make a move.

The A’s would like to spoil their chances, but that’s only going to happen if their starting pitching turns things around. Smith (0-2) gave up a career-high four homers and allowed five runs over six innings, elevating the rotation’s ERA to 7.14 over the last 13 games.

Baltimore collected 10 hits. Amazingly, the first nine of them went for extra bases. Here’s five things to know as the A’s lost for the fifth time in the past seven games:

STATING HIS CASE: If not for the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, Baltimore first baseman Trey Mancini would be making a serious push as an AL Rookie of the Year candidate. He went deep twice off Smith, hitting the back end of consecutive homers with Adam Jones in the fourth and handling the front end with Mark Trumbo in the sixth. Mancini is hitting .296 with 20 homers and 60 RBI.

A SPARK AT THE TOP: With just seven hits, the A’s didn’t have much going offensively. But Rajai Davis continues to ignite things from the leadoff spot. He led off the bottom of the first with a single. Orioles lefty Wade Miley (6-9) had him picked off first but Davis was safe at second anyway and advanced to third when Mancini’s throw went into left field. Then Davis came home on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly. Over his past 25 games, Davis is hitting .329 (23-for-70).

TRENDING THE WRONG WAY: Smith, solid for the A’s over his first three starts, has now allowed 13 runs over 15 innings in his past three outings (one of them in relief).

PHEGLEY UPDATE: If all continues to go well for Josh Phegley, the catcher hopes to begin a minor league rehab assignment early next week as he works back from a strained left oblique. Phegley caught a couple of bullpen sessions Thursday and took 50 swings with the bat Wednesday. He hasn’t played since July 24

CHAPMAN’S EARLY EXIT: Matt Chapman exited the game after three innings with what the A’s announced as an illness. Ryon Healy shifted from first to third base to replace him, and Matt Olson entered the game to play first.