Athletics-Diamondbacks Preview

The Associated Press

After his last start, Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Joe Saunders said the club needed to play better at home.

The Diamondbacks have done just that.

Arizona looks to win a season-best fifth straight and move back to .500 in Sunday's series finale against the visiting Oakland Athletics.

Saunders (3-4, 3.65 ERA) gets the ball for the first time since a 4-0 loss to Colorado on Monday when he yielded four runs and a season-high 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings.

The veteran left-hander is 1-4 with a 6.67 ERA in his last five starts in the desert.

"We need to play better for (our fans)," Saunders told the Diamondbacks' official website after the team's first shutout of the season dropped it to a NL-worst 10-16 at home. "It's a fact of us and myself not executing enough. We're just not coming up with that big hit. Hopefully the tide turns."

Has it ever. The Diamondbacks (29-30) are averaging 8.3 runs and batting .377 with eight homers while going undefeated since Saunders' last start.

"I just felt like I wanted to get into the groove because all of the guys are swinging the bat really good," Miguel Montero said after hitting his second career grand slam in Saturday's 8-3 victory.

Arizona, winner of six of seven, hasn't been at the break-even point since it was 14-14 on May 5.

The Diamondbacks could reach .500 with a fifth straight home win over Oakland (26-34). It would also give the Diamondbacks their longest winning streak since a nine-game run Aug. 23-31.

Arizona's last 5-0 stretch at Chase Field was a franchise-best 15-game surge that ended Sept. 11.

Regardless of the outcome, the A's will leave Phoenix on Sunday with their eighth consecutive series loss in an NL park. They've dropped 26 of 34 on the road in interleague play.

Trying to salvage the finale of this series could be a challenge with Travis Blackley (0-1, 3.45) making his first start against Arizona.

The Australian left-hander, who did not pitch in the majors from 2005-06 or '08-11, has one career win, and that came in his big league debut July 1, 2004, while with Seattle.

Blackley will make his third start, and sixth appearance, since being acquired off waivers from San Francisco on May 15.

He needed 93 pitches to get through 4 2-3 innings in Tuesday's 6-3 loss to Texas, finishing with two walks and five runs allowed.

Blackley will likely need a better performance Sunday the way the Diamondbacks are swinging the bats.

Left fielder Jason Kubel is 8 for 14 with two homers, a triple, a double and 10 RBIs since the team's last loss, while shortstop Willie Bloomquist is 7 for 15 with six runs.

Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt will try to extend his career-best hitting streak to 17. He's batting .424 (25 for 59) with six homers and 10 RBIs during that stretch.

A's catcher Kurt Suzuki has two hits in each of the last two games, but he has just two hits in 31 career at-bats off Saunders, who has a 1.08 ERA while winning his last three starts against Oakland.

Saunders could get his first look at A's center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who has missed the last two games with a strained left hamstring. Manager Bob Melvin said Saturday that the Cuban rookie might be able to pinch-hit during this three-game set.

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