MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—A spectacular August has put the Oakland Athletics in position to win the AL West. Now they’re hoping to avoid their failures of past Septembers.
The surging Athletics carry a nine-game home winning streak into the final month when they open a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at McAfee Coliseum on Friday night.
Oakland (77-56) posted the best record in baseball in August, going 21-6 to move a season-high 7 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles for the AL West lead. The A’s have not had a bigger lead in the division since being 8 1/2 games up on Sept. 25, 1992.
The A’s, who haven’t won the West since 2003, have struggled the last two years in September and finished in second place behind the Angels both times. They went 13-17 in the month last year and wound up seven games out. In 2004, Oakland went 13-18 in September and finished one game back—and out of the playoffs.
Joe Blanton (14-10, 4.45 ERA) will try to help Oakland get September off to a good start. Blanton is 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA in his last seven home starts.
The right-hander improved to 6-2 with a 3.38 ERA in eight starts since the All-Star break by winning his last outing at Texas. He gave up three runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-3 victory Saturday.
Blanton hasn’t allowed a home run in seven starts, a span of 45 2-3 innings and 201 batters faced. He’s 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two career starts against Baltimore—both coming last year.
Oakland starters went 18-5 with a 3.16 ERA in August.
“The pitching has been great all year,” left fielder Bobby Kielty said. “We just didn’t have the run support that we have now during the beginning of the year. We just keep taking care of our business and not worry about the other teams.”
The offense has received a boost from leadoff hitter Jason Kendall, who will look to extend his hot hitting into September. He batted .358 (38-for-106) with 13 RBIs in August.
Oakland had a 10-game home winning streak against Baltimore before being swept in a three-game set at McAfee Coliseum from Aug. 15-17. The A’s won two of three at Camden Yards from July 17-19.
Baltimore (60-73) lost for only the fifth time in 14 games Thursday, 7-5 to Texas. Nick Markakis went 3-for-5 with a homer and is 15-for-36 (.417) with 11 RBIs in his last nine games.
Center fielder Corey Patterson missed his second straight game after suffering a sprained right shoulder when he crashed into the fence in Tuesday’s loss to the Rangers. He’s unlikely to play this weekend.
“If I was a betting man, I’d say he’d miss that series,” Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said.
Baltimore’s Erik Bedard (12-9, 3.92) will look to snap his longest winless of the season, as he’s 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA in his last six starts. The Orioles ended a five-game losing streak in his starts Saturday with a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay. Bedard allowed a season-high 11 hits, but only two runs in seven innings.
“I gave up a lot of hits but we had good defense. Without the defense, we probably would have lost a long time ago,” Bedard said.
The left-hander will be pitching at McAfee Coliseum for the first time in his career. He’s 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in three career starts against the A’s.