BALTIMORE -- Brandon McCarthy doesn't dwell on some of the hard luck he has experienced with lack of run support this season. Instead, the right-hander has stayed focused on throwing effective pitches and keeping his team in every game.
In Friday night's series-opener against the Orioles at Camden Yards, McCarthy was finally rewarded, picking up his first win in six starts in a 5-2 A's victory.
McCarthy allowed two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and three walks over seven innings. He has now pitched at least six innings in five of his six starts, but prior to Friday, the A's had averaged just 1.97 runs during those outings.
The A's improved to 11-10 on the season and are above .500 for the first time since May 18, 2011.
"Anytime we can go out and get a few early, and hopefully the pitcher does his job, it kind of makes the game move faster and puts you in a positive mindset early," McCarthy said. "I wasn't really sharp, but I felt like I was able to make some pitches. There are a few hitters here and there I wish I could have back, but that's kind of like any game, I guess."
A's reliever Ryan Cook struck out four batters in the eighth inning, becoming just the third A's pitcher to accomplish that feat and the 51st in Major League history. Eric Sogard and Josh Reddick each homered to spark the offense.
The Orioles' Jake Arrieta (1-2) took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits with three strikeouts and two walks over 5 2/3 innings.
Before Friday, the A's had scored just 20 runs in their previous seven games and 63 on the season. The pitching, however, has offset those doldrums as the A's entered Friday night's game with a 2.71 ERA -- second lowest in the American League behind the Rangers (2.62).
The Orioles (12-8) have also struggled offensively, but managed to pull out four straight victories before losing to the A's. The Orioles swept Toronto in their prior series despite scoring just three runs over the three games. The Orioles have now scored five or fewer runs in their past 10 games, but won six.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead when Nolan Reimold led off the first with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Markakis.
The A's took a 3-1 lead in the second when Kurt Suzuki doubled home Kila Ka'aihue and Sogard followed with a two-run homer. Sogard was only in the lineup because the original starter at third base, Luke Hughes, was scratched just before batting practice because of a fever.
"I got a hitter's count and a pitch to drive and I was lucky to get it out of there," said Sogard, who had about 15 family members in attendance. "McCarthy pitched a really good game." After Reimold's double, McCarthy retired 12 of 13 batters and did now allow another hit until the fifth inning, when Chris Davis managed to get a ball off the bottom of his bat just over third base for a double.
McCarthy then struck out Mark Reynolds and allowed a single to Ryan Flaherty that moved Davis to third, but got out of the jam by forcing Robert Andino into a 6-4-3 double play.
"[Reimold's double] was the second pitch of the game and after that I just trying to get ahead," McCarthy said. "I was just trying to make better pitches." McCarthy was rewarded in the sixth when Reddick's third home run increased the lead to 4-1. An RBI single by Adam Jones cut the lead to 4-2 in the bottom half, but Reddick would answer with a RBI single in the eighth for a three-run cushion.
"Strike one, that's the key around baseball, throwing strike one," Jones said about McCarthy. "Successful pitchers do that and tonight he was throwing strike one and made us put the ball in play."
After Cook struck out four batters in the eighth, Grant Balfour picked up his sixth save by striking out two batters in the ninth. Cook downplayed his performance and said the night belonged to McCarthy. "He was great," Cook said. "I thought he was really good. I actually think he pitched a little bit better than the scoreboard showed."
Todd Karpovich is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.