American League Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, July 24th
(All times Eastern)
Oakland Athletics (51-44) at Toronto Blue Jays (48-47), 7:07 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Oakland - Travis Blackley (2-2, 2.86)
Toronto - Brett Cecil (2-2, 6.34)
(Sports Network) - A critical road sweep over a division rival has the Toronto
Blue Jays back in the right direction. Now the challenge will be to cool down
the hottest team in baseball.
The Oakland Athletics head to Rogers Centre for this three-game series having
won five consecutive games and nine times in their last 10 contests, and boast
a major-league best 14-2 record in the month of July. The surge has placed the
surprising club right in the thick of the American League playoff race, with
the A's currently tied with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the
circuit's two wild card berths.
Oakland proved its validity by winning all four matchups with the powerful New
York Yankees, owners of the best record in the majors, this past weekend. The
Athletics completed the sweep with a stirring rally on Sunday, fighting back
from an early four-run deficit to down the Bronx Bombers by a 5-4 score in 12
Seth Smith sent the game into additional frames with a one-out solo homer off
Yankees closer Rafael Soriano in the bottom of the ninth, and prevailed in the
12th when Derek Norris singled and later came around on Coco Crisp's two-out
base hit to right.
The comeback gave Oakland its MLB-leading 11th walk-off victory of the season.
"We always feel like we have a chance to win," Crisp said.
Toronto fell back in the pack after losing three straight times to the Yankees
in New York last week, but rebounded strongly by outscoring Boston by a 28-11
margin in a three-game sweep at Fenway Park this past weekend. The effort
placed the Blue Jays three games behind both the A's and Angels for the AL's
two Wild Card berths.
Even without slugger Jose Bautista, placed on the disabled list a week ago
with a wrist injury, Toronto had its bats working in Sunday's finale. The Blue
Jays rocked Boston starter Jon Lester for nine runs in the first two innings
and pounded out 18 hits -- including four homers -- in a 15-7 rout.
Brett Lawrie began the onslaught with a leadoff homer in the top of the first,
igniting a five-run opening inning for Toronto. The Jays scored four more
times in the second, with J.P. Arencibia belting a three-run homer and Rajai
Davis following with a solo shot to give the team a 9-3 lead.
"I think the boys set the tone early," said outfielder Travis Snider, who went
2-for-4 with a homer and three RBI on the day. "First pitch of the game,
Lawrie comes out swinging, then J.P. and the rest of the at-bats we put
together against a good pitcher like Lester."
Arencibia knocked in four runs in all, while Davis and Yunel Escobar each
finished 3-for-4 in the win.
The Blue Jays may find offense harder to come by in this series, as Oakland
leads the AL with a 3.37 team earned run average. Travis Blackley has
contributed to that strong number by posting a 2.86 ERA in eight starts and
four relief appearances since joining the club in mid-May, and gets the call
for the A's this evening.
Blackley, claimed off waivers from San Francisco earlier this season, last
took the hill on Wednesday and allowed three runs in a 5 1/3-inning no-
decision against Texas, but has gone 2-0 with a 2.23 ERA over his last six
appearances (5 starts).
The native Australian, who hadn't pitched in the majors since 2007 prior to
being called up by the Giants in May, has faced the Blue Jays just one time
previously. That came all the way back in 2004 while with Seattle, with the
left-hander surrendering six runs (5 earned) in five innings to take the loss.
Toronto will counter with the struggling Brett Cecil, who enters tonight's
tilt with a 2-2 record and a 6.34 ERA in six starts since being called up from
Triple A in mid-June. The left-hander is coming off a decent performance,
however, having held the Yankees to three runs on six hits over six innings
despite receiving a loss on July 17.
Cecil, a 15-game winner for the Blue Jays in 2010, has compiled a 2-2 record
with a 2.79 ERA in four career starts against Oakland.
These teams split a brief two-game set in Oakland from May 8-9, as well as 10
overall meetings last season. The A's have won in three of their last four
visits to the Rogers Centre, however.
07/24 10:42:59 ET
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