Athletics-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

If the Oakland Athletics don't turn things around, they could be tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the AL's final wild-card spot by the end of the weekend.

Looking for a third straight victory, the Orioles hope to further cut into that wild-card deficit by handing the A's a fourth consecutive loss Saturday.

Brian Roberts hit a grand slam, Adam Jones also homered and had three RBIs on Friday as Baltimore (69-58) moved within two games of the A's for the second wild-card spot with a 9-7 victory.

Averaging 5.8 runs while winning four of six, the Orioles scored six times in the fourth and three in the seventh to beat the A's (71-56) for the fifth time in six contests.

"It's fun. This is what we all play for,'' said the oft-injured Roberts, who is 13 for 29 with runners in scoring position this season and 3 for 4 with the bases loaded. "You want to be in the race in August and September."

Oakland, which dropped 3 1/2 games behind first-place Texas in the West, is 8-13 since July 30.

"We're going to go out there and play as hard as we can, and if we end up making it to the playoffs that would be fantastic,'' said outfielder Coco Crisp, who went 4 for 5 with a homer.

Oakland has homered nine times in five games and might have a good chance to continue that power surge against scheduled Baltimore starter Chris Tillman (14-4, 3.79 ERA).

Joining Oakland's A.J. Griffin as the only two pitchers in the majors to allow at least 26 homers and post an ERA below 4.00, Tillman has yielded a major league-high 20 of his 26 home runs at home. However, he didn't serve up any for the two runs he allowed in six innings of a 7-3 victory at Oakland on April 27.

The right-hander won four straight starts from July 12-Aug. 2, but is 0-1 in three outings since then despite posting a 3.15 ERA. He gave up three of his four runs on two homers in six innings of a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday, snapping his six-start win streak at Camden Yards.

Alberto Callaspo is the only current player on Oakland's roster to homer off Tillman, but Josh Donaldson is 3 for 3 with a double against him.

While the A's offense has managed to deliver of late, their pitching staff has a 6.92 ERA in the last three games.

They hope Jarrod Parker (9-6, 3.71) can end those struggles by continuing his unbeaten run Saturday. The right-hander went 2-6 with a 5.76 ERA in his first 10 starts, but is 7-0 with a 2.59 ERA in his last 15.

He's allowed a run and eight hits in each of his last two outings, most recently during Monday's 2-1 victory over Seattle for his first complete game. He also pitched in the ninth his previous start against Houston.

"That's something I've been trying to build toward," Parker said. "When I can get through the early innings with fewer pitches it helps go deeper into games.''

Parker, however, is 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA in three starts against the Orioles. He was tagged for six runs over 5 1-3 innings in 10-2 loss to them April 25.

Jones is 4 for 8 with a homer and Chris Davis 3 for 8 with two home runs against him.

Jones is batting .342 with two homers and eight RBIs in his last nine games versus Oakland. He is 12 for 31 (.387) with three home runs and nine RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak overall.

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