Athletics-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

With the best pitching staff in the American League, the Oakland Athletics don't need to worry about scoring a lot of runs. Still, it's comforting to know their lineup is capable of putting up some big offensive numbers.

The Athletics look to make it eight straight wins and complete a three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

Oakland (53-44) has surged back into the playoff picture with a 16-2 record this month, including the team's first seven-game win streak since Sept. 14-20, 2009. They swept a four-game series against the New York Yankees last weekend and have won the first two games at Rogers Centre by a combined 23-2 score.

Wednesday's 16-0 rout matched Oakland's biggest shutout win in franchise history, accomplished on four other occasions, most recently in 2005. Coco Crisp homered twice, Chris Carter also went deep and drove in three runs and A.J. Griffin struck out nine in six innings.

The Athletics entered Wednesday as the lowest-scoring team in the AL at 3.8 runs per game, but have averaged 9.4 runs in their past five road contests.

"The quality at bats that we're getting across the board are much better right now," manager Bob Melvin said.

The improved offense has provided some support for a pitching staff that owns a league-leading 3.32 ERA. Oakland's staff has a 2.37 ERA this month.

Tommy Milone (9-6, 3.34 ERA) will look to keep that run going and help the A's win eight in a row for the first time since a 10-game run June 8-18, 2006.

Milone continued his excellent pitching with another strong performance against the Yankees on Friday. He struck out a career-high 10 in seven scoreless innings before leaving without a decision in a 3-2 victory.

The left-hander has a 1.10 ERA in six starts since allowing a career-high eight earned runs at Colorado on June 13.

Travis Blackley and Griffin have stifled a Toronto offense that scored 28 runs in a three-game sweep at Boston over the weekend. Colby Rasmus, who drove in five runs in that series, is 0 for 6 with three strikeouts in this set.

Already without slugger Jose Bautista (left wrist), the Blue Jays also lost catcher J.P. Arencibia to a broken hand in the second inning. Arencibia, hitting .242 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs, is expected to miss up to six weeks.

Jeff Mathis, who replaced Arencibia behind the plate, pitched an inning Wednesday with the game out of hand. Starter Ricky Romero didn't make it out of the second.

''It's kind of tough to look my teammates in the eye right now,'' Romero said. ''Tonight was just pathetic on my side, a horrible performance.''

Toronto (48-49) will try to bounce back behind Aaron Laffey (2-1, 2.77), who seeks to win three straight starts for the first time since August 2009.

The left-hander scattered eight hits over seven scoreless innings of a 6-1 win at Fenway Park on Friday.

''He was using a successful recipe," manager John Farrell said. ''There were a lot of strikes, got ahead on the count and got a lot of groundballs.''

Laffey's last start against the A's was in 2008 with Cleveland. He's faced them five times as a reliever since and overall is 1-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 14 2-3 innings.

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