Blue Jays-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

While the Oakland Athletics broke out of their minor rut, the Toronto Blue Jays remain stuck in a lengthy rough patch.

With one of their top pitching prospects set to make his major league debut, the A's look to hand the visiting Blue Jays a season-high sixth consecutive loss Friday night.

Bartolo Colon pitched eight scoreless innings and Josh Reddick hit a two-run homer Thursday as Oakland (57-48) beat Toronto 4-1 to avoid a third straight defeat. Leading the AL wild-card race, the A's had won 19 of 23 before dropping two in a row to Tampa Bay prior to this series.

Toronto (51-54), meanwhile, matched a season high with a fifth straight loss. Playing without injured regulars Jose Bautista (wrist), Adam Lind (back) and J.P. Arencibia (hand), the Blue Jays have been outscored 24-8 during that skid.

"We're in a stretch where runs are at a premium," manager John Farrell said. "It's difficult to string hits together right now."

The Blue Jays, who have not lost six straight since a nine-game skid May 19-27, 2009, hope to get back on track against highly touted Oakland right-hander Dan Straily. A fourth-round pick of the A's in 2009, Straily recorded a whopping 175 strikeouts while going 8-6 with a 2.60 ERA in 22 starts between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento this season.

He will be the fifth rookie pitcher to get a start for Oakland this season.

"I think we're all excited to watch him pitch," manager Bob Melvin said. "Guys like that you find a way to get into the rotation. I've seen the video, I've seen the numbers and everybody is real excited. (Friday night) will be a very good day because of it - a lot of hype, and rightfully so."

The A's would like to score early for Straily as they did Thursday with three in the third inning. Mired in an 0-for-21 slump, Reddick singled in the first inning and highlighted the third with his third homer in six games against Toronto.

Oakland's Brandon Inge delivered an RBI single in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

The A's, however, are likely to be without outfielder-designated hitter Seth Smith, who strained his left hamstring in the series opener.

Edwin Encarnacion was 0 for 11 in his previous three games before recording two hits Thursday for the Blue Jays, who are 5 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot. Encarnacion, who has 28 homers and 72 RBIs, is 5 for 10 in his last three games versus Oakland.

The Blue Jays have struggled of late to support scheduled starter Brett Cecil (2-4, 5.56), who has lost three consecutive starts despite posting a 3.86 ERA. His teammates have totaled two runs with him on the mound in those contests.

He gave up a three-run homer and a season-high four walks in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-1 loss to Detroit on Sunday.

"I'm not going to change anything," said Cecil, who has allowed a home run in each of his last four starts. "Just keep doing what I'm doing. Wins will come."

The Blue Jays also have provided Cecil a combined two runs of support in his last three starts versus Oakland, and he's lost them all despite having a 3.15 ERA. The left-hander yielded two runs and stuck out eight in six innings of a 7-2 loss to the A's on July 24.

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