Athletics-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

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.

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