A's hope to stay hot in Baltimore

The hottest team in the American League shoots for a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles as the Oakland Athletics close out a three-game set at Camden Yards this afternoon.

Since the All-Star Break the A's have been virtually unstoppable, winning all but two of their 14 outings and because of that they have surged to second place in the AL West standings, just 3 1/2 games behind Texas for the top spot thanks to a 6-1 romp over the O's on Saturday.

The Oakland offense was powered by Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter who both went deep and knocked in a combined five runs as the A's picked up their ninth win in 10 opportunities. Jemile Weeks delivered three hits and scored twice for the visitors and Eric Sogard contributed a pair of hits and an RBI at the bottom of the batting order.

Perhaps most surprising was the effort put in by an aging Bartolo Colon who scattered seven hits and a walk while striking out five through 5 2/3 innings of work in order to pick up his seventh win of the season.

"I've played with different teams that went to the playoffs and everything," Colon said through an interpreter. "But right now, the way that this team plays, the way that I see everybody, this team is the most fun I'm having."

As for the Orioles, with their second straight loss and the fifth in the last six games, they find themselves now tied with Tampa Bay for second place in the AL East, 8 1/2 games off the pace set by New York.

Baltimore compiled 10 hits on Saturday but never really mounted much of a threat against the visitors, due to the fact that Orioles hitters also struck out nine times. If not for the solo home run belted by Nick Markakis in the bottom of the ninth the team would have been staring at their second shutout loss in the last two weeks.

Tommy Hunter started the game on the mound for the O's and was responsible for giving up five runs on seven hits, while striking out seven over the course of 5 1/3 innings.

Watching the game from the Baltimore dugout was designated hitter Jim Thome who was not in the starting lineup due to neck spasms.

Gunning for his fourth win in as many decisions, Travis Blackley heads to the mound for the A's today in Baltimore. Now in his third season in the majors, Blackley came over from the San Francisco Giants earlier in the campaign where he was used sparingly in a mere four games.

Since coming over to the American League, the Australian native has put together some strong outings while delivering a total of 44 strikeouts, against just 11 walks through 63 2/3 innings.

Blackley's most recent outing came on Tuesday when he limited the Toronto Blue Jays to just a single run on five hits and a walk, striking out eight through seven innings as Oakland captured a 7-2 win on the road.

Today's matchup marks the first appearance for Blackley against the Orioles in his career.

Meanwhile, Baltimore plans on handing the ball to rookie hurler Wei-Yin Chen to see if the 27-year old can shake off a loss from his last outing and possibly deliver just his second win since June 18.

Chen was pitted against Tampa Bay on Tuesday and was charged with giving up three runs on four hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander did manage to record five strikeouts for the fourth consecutive game, but still the O's took the loss, 3-1.

Unlike Blackley, Chen does have a history, albeit brief, with Oakland, having given up one run on six hits and a couple of walks in seven innings, en route to one of his eight wins on the campaign.

Like the team overall, Cespedes has been on fire for the A's since the start of the second half of the season, batting a robust .439 with five home runs and 17 knocked in. But more than that, the outfielder is also making it look easy on defense as well and that has his teammate's attention.

"He's a toolsy player," Weeks says of Cespedes. "That's why they paid him what they paid him. He's showing what he can do. He hits home runs, he's got speed, and he's got a strong arm. He's got five tools, and he displayed them all tonight."