(Sports Network) - The hottest team in the American League shoots for a sweep
of the Baltimore Orioles as the Oakland Athletics close out a three-game set
at Camden Yards this afternoon.
Since the All-Star Break the A's have been virtually unstoppable, winning all
but two of their 14 outings and because of that they have surged to second
place in the AL West standings, just 3 1/2 games behind Texas for the top spot
thanks to a 6-1 romp over the O's on Saturday.
The Oakland offense was powered by Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter who both
went deep and knocked in a combined five runs as the A's picked up their ninth
win in 10 opportunities. Jemile Weeks delivered three hits and scored twice
for the visitors and Eric Sogard contributed a pair of hits and an RBI at the
bottom of the batting order.
Perhaps most surprising was the effort put in by an aging Bartolo Colon who
scattered seven hits and a walk while striking out five through 5 2/3 innings
of work in order to pick up his seventh win of the season.
"I've played with different teams that went to the playoffs and everything,"
Colon said through an interpreter. "But right now, the way that this team
plays, the way that I see everybody, this team is the most fun I'm having."
As for the Orioles, with their second straight loss and the fifth in the last
six games, they find themselves now tied with Tampa Bay for second place in
the AL East, 8 1/2 games off the pace set by New York.
Baltimore compiled 10 hits on Saturday but never really mounted much of a
threat against the visitors, due to the fact that Orioles hitters also struck
out nine times. If not for the solo home run belted by Nick Markakis in the
bottom of the ninth the team would have been staring at their second shutout
loss in the last two weeks.
Tommy Hunter started the game on the mound for the O's and was responsible for
giving up five runs on seven hits, while striking out seven over the course of
5 1/3 innings.
Watching the game from the Baltimore dugout was designated hitter Jim Thome
who was not in the starting lineup due to neck spasms.
Gunning for his fourth win in as many decisions, Travis Blackley heads to the
mound for the A's today in Baltimore. Now in his third season in the majors,
Blackley came over from the San Francisco Giants earlier in the campaign where
he was used sparingly in a mere four games.
Since coming over to the American League, the Australian native has put
together some strong outings while delivering a total of 44 strikeouts,
against just 11 walks through 63 2/3 innings.
Blackley's most recent outing came on Tuesday when he limited the Toronto Blue
Jays to just a single run on five hits and a walk, striking out eight through
seven innings as Oakland captured a 7-2 win on the road.
Today's matchup marks the first appearance for Blackley against the Orioles in
Meanwhile, Baltimore plans on handing the ball to rookie hurler Wei-Yin Chen
to see if the 27-year old can shake off a loss from his last outing and
possibly deliver just his second win since June 18.
Chen was pitted against Tampa Bay on Tuesday and was charged with giving up
three runs on four hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander did
manage to record five strikeouts for the fourth consecutive game, but still
the O's took the loss, 3-1.
Unlike Blackley, Chen does have a history, albeit brief, with Oakland, having
given up one run on six hits and a couple of walks in seven innings, en route
to one of his eight wins on the campaign.
Like the team overall, Cespedes has been on fire for the A's since the start
of the second half of the season, batting a robust .439 with five home runs
and 17 knocked in. But more than that, the outfielder is also making it look
easy on defense as well and that has his teammate's attention.
"He's a toolsy player," Weeks says of Cespedes. "That's why they paid him what
they paid him. He's showing what he can do. He hits home runs, he's got speed,
and he's got a strong arm. He's got five tools, and he displayed them all
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