American League Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, July 25th (All times eastern)
Oakland Athletics (52-44) at Toronto Blue Jays (48-48), 7:07 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Oakland - A.J. Griffin (2-0, 2.70) Toronto - Ricky Romero (8-6, 5.22)
(Sports Network) - Hitting the road has yet to slow down the surging Oakland Athletics, who'll be taking aim at their longest winning streak in nearly three years in tonight's matchup with the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre.
The surprising A's won the final five tests of a six-game homestand that concluded with a resounding 5-4 comeback victory over the American League East-leading New York Yankees on Sunday. An off day and a long trip didn't affect the red-hot club at all in last night's opener of this three-game set, as Travis Blackley threw seven strong innings and Yoenis Cespedes knocked in three runs to lift Oakland to a 7-2 triumph over the Blue Jays.
Blackley limited Toronto to one run on five hits and struck out a career-high eight batters while walking just one to post his third straight winning decision. The left-hander, who hadn't pitched in the majors since 2007 prior to this season, now has a 2.69 earned run average in 13 games (9 starts) with the Athletics.
"I didn't think (Blackley) was great the first two innings maybe," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "But after that he pitched really well and mixed up his pitches really well. (Catcher Derek Norris) did a great job with him behind the plate, kind of recognizing what was working for him and sticking with that."
Oakland was clinging to a 2-1 lead after six innings before scoring five times in the top of the seventh against the Toronto bullpen, highlighted by a bases- loaded single by Cespedes that brought in all three runners.
Norris had a two-run homer earlier in the game and Jemile Weeks went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple for the A's, who are an MLB-best 15-2 thus far in July and will be shooting for their first seven-game win streak since Sept, 14-20, 2009. The surge has moved Oakland into a tie with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the lead in the AL Wild Card race.
Travis Snider and J.P. Arencibia each hit solo homers for the Blue Jays, who were coming off a three-game road sweep of Boston over the weekend. Starting pitcher Brett Cecil was solid in a tough-luck defeat, permitting just two runs and fanning eight batters over the first six innings.
"In two innings tonight the third out was a little elusive," Toronto manager John Farrell said afterward. "The way Blackley was pitching, that was obviously too big a hole for us to come back. We contributed to that big inning in the seventh with some walks and it was too much to overcome by that point."
The Blue Jays will try to bounce back in their first-ever encounter with rookie A.J. Griffin, one of the unexpected contributors to Oakland's outstanding run.
Since being called up from the minors to late June to replace the injured Brandon McCarthy in the rotation, Griffin has pitched six innings in all five of his starts and surrendered three or less runs each time out. The young right-hander has registered an impressive 2.70 ERA to go along with a 2-0 record.
Griffin notched his first big-league victory with six innings of three-run ball at Minnesota on July 13, then followed up by holding the Yankees to two runs with no walks through six frames to win again this past Thursday.
Toronto counters with inconsistent lefty Ricky Romero, who's currently saddled with a five-start losing streak in which he's recorded an subpar 8.33 ERA.
Romero had appeared to be turning the corner after yielding just three runs over a 12-inning span in defeats to the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland on July 7 and 13, respectively, but the former first-round pick was hit hard by the Yankees a week ago to extend his winless drought. New York battered him for six runs and 12 hits through six innings that day, which raised Romero's season ERA to a concerning 5.22.
The Blue Jays haven't given Romero much support as of late, however, as Toronto has been shut out in each of his last three assignments.
Romero has put together a 5-2 record in nine Rogers Centre starts this year and does own a 4-0 mark with an excellent 1.70 ERA in six career outings against Oakland. He allowed two runs and struck out seven in a six-inning no- decision versus the A's at the Coliseum back on May 8.
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 four of their last five visits to the Rogers Centre, however.
07/25 10:33:41 ET