Athletics-Orioles Preview

The Oakland Athletics have the best pitching staff in baseball, and that’s a big reason why they own the AL’s best record.

Tommy Milone is certainly doing his part.

Milone looks to continue his recent success by quieting the red-hot Orioles’ offense in the opener of this three-game series at Baltimore on Friday night.

Oakland (37-23) has a 2.90 ERA to lead the majors, and the rotation’s 3.02 mark is the best in the AL. Drew Pomeranz provided the latest impressive performance, yielding two runs – one earned – in seven innings, only to have it wasted in a 2-1 defeat to the New York Yankees that ended the A’s five-game winning streak.

"Our pitchers have been throwing the ball great," first baseman Brandon Moss told the team’s official website.

Milone (3-3, 3.60 ERA) has been a major contributor lately, going 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in five starts after compiling a 5.86 ERA while losing three decisions over his first five.

The left-hander has attributed his turnaround to shortening his stride in his delivery.

He battled through his latest outing while not getting a decision in Saturday’s 11-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. Milone matched his season high by giving up nine hits, one of them a three-run homer, before he left after the sixth inning.

He’ll now make his first appearance at Camden Yards after splitting a pair of home starts against the Orioles (30-28), yielding three runs – one earned – in 13 innings.

Milone, though, will have to contend with a Baltimore team hitting .338 with eight homers and 29 runs over its past four games.

Nick Markakis has been hot lately, batting .372 during a 10-game hitting streak, while homering and driving in two runs in each of the last two games.

He had a two-run shot Thursday, but Baltimore fell 8-6 at Texas to halt its four-game winning streak.

Wei-Yin Chen (6-2, 4.26) takes the mound looking to continue his dominance of the A’s. The left-hander has won each of his three career starts against them while yielding one earned run with 21 strikeouts in 20 2-3 innings.

He was superb in Oakland on April 26, 2013, scattering two hits in eight innings of a 3-0 victory.

Lately, though, Chen has been seeking consistency.

While he’s 3-0 over his last five starts, Chen compiled a 2.04 ERA in those victories but surrendered 10 runs in 11 2-3 innings in two games that ended in Orioles losses.

He was solid again Sunday, allowing one run and four hits with six strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-4 win at Houston.

Chen may have to contend with Coco Crisp, who is on a nine-game hitting streak after getting a single Thursday. He had missed the previous game with nagging neck soreness, and manager Bob Melvin is preparing to give him another day off soon.

Crisp, though, is 8 for 16 with two doubles, two homers and seven runs over his last four games against Baltimore. He’s also 3 for 8 (.375) versus Chen.

"I don’t know when he’s going to be fully healthy," Melvin said. "There probably will be some days here where he’ll be on and days when he’ll be off to try to get him healthier."