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Smith goes over the wall to rob a homer

PHOENIX -- Oakland's Brian Fuentes insists "a loss is a loss," but Friday's 9-8 defeat to the D-backs surely had to hurt more than others.

For starters, it came in walk-off fashion, as Fuentes surrendered a three-run home run to Ryan Roberts with two outs in the ninth inning, one that began with the A's ahead by two.

It also followed a perfectly written script played out by an often-sluggish offense that busted out for a season-high 16 hits, including three apiece from Seth Smith, Brandon Inge and Josh Reddick and even one key one from starting pitcher Tommy Milone, whose two-run single highlighted a six-run second inning.

"I was just trying to put the ball in play," a smiling Milone said. "I was probably more lucky than anything."

Add in Smith's home run-robbing catch in left field, and a slick, diving play by shortstop Cliff Pennington in the ninth, and the recipe for a win appeared all but flawless.

Enter Fuentes.

The lefty got two quick outs to start the frame, before walking Chris Young and allowing a base hit to Aaron Hill to put runners on first and second for Roberts, whose long ball spoiled so much good produced by the A's.

"A lot of work in that game," manager Bob Melvin said. "A lot of good things happened. That's tough. We swung the bats well. We made unbelievable plays. It was one of those games where runs were going to be scored, but you have to find a way to put it away in the ninth.

"You don't walk a guy with two outs. You have to throw the ball over the plate."

Fuentes wasn't too interested in discussing the free pass, though. It was the last pitch he threw "that was the hardest part," he said.

The veteran reliever, who took over the closer's job in May amidst Grant Balfour's ninth-inning struggles, threw a fastball -- "Middle in," he said -- to Roberts, against whom his only goal was to "get him out."

"[My command] wasn't that good," he said. "I was struggling to keep the ball in the strike zone. I lost my tempo or something.

"They're a good team. I didn't expect them to roll over after the second inning when we scored six runs."

"I just knew we weren't going to give in that early," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

Milone struggled with consistency during his five-inning tenure on the mound. Yet, for a while, his performance at the plate trumped his mound work, which brought about four runs on nine hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

Milone's two-run single in the second gave him five RBIs in seven career at-bats. The A's sent 11 men to the plate in the frame and knocked around Arizona starter Daniel Hudson for eight hits. Two were recorded by Inge, marking the second time in four days the third baseman has compiled a pair of hits in one inning.

Hudson wasn't around to see the fateful frame end, as he departed with two outs in favor of right-hander Josh Collmenter, who kept the A's off the board in 3 1/3 innings of work.

Meanwhile, Milone watched his six-run lead cut in half in the bottom of the second, when he surrendered an RBI base hit to Willie Bloomquist and a two-run homer to Jason Kubel that soared more than 450 feet to center field.

Paul Goldschmidt's solo shot in Milone's fifth and final inning narrowed Oakland's lead to two, but Smith reclaimed Oakland's momentum in the sixth with a two-run homer -- his fifth of the season -- to right field, capping an impressive night. Not only did Smith rack up three hits, but he robbed Hill of a home run in the second inning with a remarkable leap and grab above the left-field wall.

"Shoot, I didn't think he had a chance at that," Melvin said. "I didn't know he jumped that high."

In 58 career games against the D-backs, Smith has 10 home runs and 31 RBIs. More importantly, he has nine hits in his past 16 at-bats, proving to be a significant component of the middle of Oakland's lineup at just the right time, as regular cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes is sidelined by injury again.

Smith's three-hit performance was copied by Inge and Reddick, marking the first time since April 16, 1999, when Oakland's 3-4-5 hitters (Jason Giambi, John Jaha, Matt Stairs) all tallied three, according to A's historian David Feldman.

The A's eight runs give them 41 in the past seven games after tallying just 32 over the previous 16 contests, and for Fuentes, it marked his third blown save of the season, including second in two weeks courtesy of walk-off home runs.

Asked if he would consider a change in closer -- Ryan Cook appears next in line -- yet again, Melvin replied, "I don't make decisions like that two minutes after a game."

"That's a game you want to win," Smith said. "That's what we're here to do. You take the good things from tonight and try to carry them into tomorrow."

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