Blue Jays-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

On the heels of a record-setting July, the Oakland Athletics have hit a snag.

The Athletics look to avoid a third straight defeat Thursday night when they host the Toronto Blue Jays, who are at risk of matching their longest losing streak of the season.

Oakland (56-48) went a franchise-best 19-5 in July but ended the month with an 8-0 loss to Tampa Bay, then opened August by falling 4-1 to the Rays on Wednesday.

"We have to move forward," manager Bob Melvin said. "We're going through a rough patch. We'll be fine."

Owners of the final wild-card spot in the AL, the A's hadn't dropped two straight since a three-game skid June 28-30. They now look to avoid losing three in a row at home for the first time since a season-high five-game losing streak there May 22-27.

Oakland is hitting .170 over its past four games, losing three, while getting held to six runs and striking out 53 times.

"I think we all know the game has its ups and downs and we just have to stick with it," said third baseman Brandon Inge, who homered Wednesday. "We'll just keep going at it."

Among the struggling A's hitters are Josh Reddick, mired in an 0-for-21 drought, and leadoff man Jemile Weeks, who went 1 for 14 against the Rays.

Yoenis Cespedes, however, has batted .429 in his last 19 games.

The Cuban rookie drove in five runs as the A's won two of three games in Toronto (51-53) last week, totaling 27 runs in the series with six homers.

Two of Reddick's five hits in 18 at-bats against the Blue Jays this year have left the park. He's driven home six runs in the teams' five games during 2012. Inge, riding an 11-game hitting streak, has eight RBIs in the season series and delivered a ninth-inning grand slam in a 7-3 home win over Toronto on May 8.

Scheduled Oakland starter Bartolo Colon (7-8, 3.78 ERA) is 0-2 in his last five home starts, allowing four runs and eight hits in each of the last two. However, he won for the first time in six starts Saturday, throwing 5 2-3 scoreless innings in a 6-1 victory at Baltimore on Saturday.

The burly right-hander hasn't faced the Blue Jays this season after struggling in his final four starts against them last year, going 0-2 with a 10.06 ERA.

He'll face a Toronto team which has been limited to seven runs and a .186 average during a four-game losing streak. The Blue Jays lost a season-high five straight May 22-27.

It surely hasn't helped that they remain without star slugger Jose Bautista, sidelined since July 16 with a sprained wrist. Bautista ranks among the major league leaders with 27 homers and 65 RBIs.

"I'm frustrated that I'm not out there, and it's frustrating to see our team lose any type of games," Bautista told the Blue Jays' official website.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has 28 homers and 72 RBIs, went 0 for 11 in Toronto's three games at Seattle this week. He's 2 for 12 versus Colon.

Henderson Alvarez (7-7, 4.43) looks to win a third consecutive start when he takes the mound for Toronto. After giving up a career-high seven runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 15-7 win at Boston on July 22, the right-hander yielded one in seven frames of a 5-1 victory over Detroit on Saturday.

"He's got a real live arm," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Alvarez's only two starts against Oakland came last season, going 0-1 with a 3.09 ERA.

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