(Sports Network) - Surprising is no longer the only way to describe the 2012
editions of both the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics.
Winners is also appropriate.
With both clubs having now snapped a lengthy string of losing seasons, the
playoff hopefuls battle for a bigger prize on Friday evening in the opener of
a three-game series in Oakland.
The Orioles head out west following a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays,
with Thursday's victory not only keeping Baltimore tied with the New York
Yankees for first place in the AL East, as well as the league's second wild
card spot, but also guaranteeing the club's first season of at least .500
baseball since 1997.
Baltimore's 81 victories are the most since it won 98 games in 1997.
Meanwhile, Oakland has already locked down its first winning season since 2006
despite Thursday's shutout loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as it has
one more victory than Baltimore. However, that 82-win total is only good
enough for the first wild card spot in the AL as the Athletics still sit three
games behind the Texas Rangers for the top spot in the AL West.
The A's were shut down by Angels ace Jered Weaver on Thursday as he hurled
seven innings of two-hit ball to help blank Oakland 6-0.
The Athletics have still won 15 of their last 19 games, but all four losses
have come to the Angels.
Brett Anderson allowed five runs on nine hits over 6 2/3 frames for the A's,
who had an Oakland-record tying 12-game road winning streak snapped.
"I thought Brett's stuff was good," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of his
starter. "He's pitching at a high level."
Melvin saw outfielder Yoenis Cespedes depart in the fifth inning with a
sprained right wrist that has him day-to-day.
While Oakland's impressive road winning streak came to an end, Baltimore
extended a franchise record of its own by winning its 13th straight extra-
inning game on Thursday. The O's finished off the sweep of the Rays with a 3-2
victory after Adam Jones scored on Manny Machado's two-out single in the
bottom of the 14th inning that avoided the glove of a diving Matt Joyce.
Machado's hit came after Baltimore failed to score in the previous inning
despite loading the bases with nobody out.
"You leave the bases loaded with nobody out in a game like that and you go
back out there and put up a zero, that's really hard to do," Orioles manager
Buck Showalter said.
Baltimore improved to 27-7 in one-run games this season and will give Joe
Saunders his fourth straight in an Orioles uniform tonight.
Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in late August, Saunders had a rough go
of things in his Orioles debut on Aug. 29, but has won two straight starts
He picked up a victory at the Toronto Blue Jays and then bested the Yankees on
Saturday, charged with two runs on five hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings
The 31-year-old lefty hasn't allowed a homer in his three starts with the O's
after giving up 17 in 21 outings with Arizona.
Saunders is 13-4 with a 3.34 earned run average in 19 career starts versus
Oakland, which he beat in interleague play back on June 10. He allowed one
earned run in six innings.
Oakland turns to Tommy Milone, who has won three of his last four starts.
The 25-year-old southpaw was tagged for five runs in just three frames of a
loss to the Angels on Sept. 3, but rebounded to beat the Seattle Mariners on
Sunday. Milone yielded two runs over six frames and struck out a career high-
tying 10 batters to move to 12-10 with a 3.90 ERA in 27 starts this season.
Milone faces the Orioles for the first time.
Prior to this series, the A's and O's split six meetings this season -- all in
The Sports Network