Athletics-Orioles Preview

The Oakland Athletics are on the verge of securing their best

winning percentage in July in franchise history.

Another strong outing from Travis Blackley and more timely hits

from Yoenis Cespedes could lead the A’s toward clinching that

history-making mark Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

The A’s (55-45) have scored 20 runs in their two wins at Camden

Yards following a 6-1 victory Saturday, with Cespedes hitting a

two-run homer. The Cuban outfielder added an RBI triple and is

batting .439 (25 for 57) with five homers and 17 RBIs since the

All-Star break.

Cespedes might get the chance to help Oakland improve to 19-3 in

July and clinch its best record for the month. The 1931

Philadelphia A’s went 26-7 (.788) and the 2005 club had the best

finish since the team moved to Oakland at 20-6 (.769).

With one win over its next three games, this A’s team would

finish with at worst a .792 winning percentage for July.

“It’s been impressive – I think for a lot of people,

surprising,” second baseman Jemile Weeks said. “For me, I always

knew that this team was going to be somebody that could make some

noise, and we’re just starting to show that now. It’s pleasing to

see at this point.”

Blackley (3-2, 2.69 ERA) will try to help his team get there

while extending career-high win streak to four. The left-hander,

acquired off waivers from San Francisco on May 15, has a 2.08 ERA

during that run.

He fanned a career-high eight and gave up a solo homer over

seven innings in his latest victory, 7-2 in Toronto on Tuesday.

“He’s been awfully consistent for us since he’s been here,”

manager Bob Melvin told the team’s website.

In his first start against the Orioles, Blackley will try to

maintain that consistency while helping Oakland record its first

sweep of three games or more in Baltimore since taking a four-game

set Aug. 26-29, 2006. The A’s swept a rain-shortened, two-game set

at Camden Yards from Sept. 5-6, 2008.

Wei-Yin Chen (8-6, 3.82) might prevent that sweep if he can

duplicate his performance from his only other matchup with Oakland.

The rookie left-hander yielded only a solo homer, five other hits

and two walks over seven innings of a 10-1 home victory April

28.

Chen has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last three

starts but took the loss in a 3-1 defeat to Tampa Bay on Tuesday at

Camden Yards. He’s 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA over his last four starts

there.

“I felt like I made one mistake (a two-run homer to Brooks

Conrad) and that’s why I lost tonight,” Chen told the team’s

website through his interpreter. “I feel strong and I kept

fighting, I never gave up.”

Matt Wieters might return from a sore right biceps and try to

help the Orioles earn their second win in seven games. They’ve been

outscored 38-19 over the last six.

“They’re trying. It’s just not happening,” manager Buck

Showalter said. “When they do hit the ball on the button and it’s

right at somebody, it’s frustrating. But if they keep going it will

happen. It’s not like it hasn’t happened all year.”

The status of veteran slugger Jim Thome, meanwhile, is unknown

because of spasms in his neck.