OAKLAND ATHLETICS (37-23)
at BALTIMORE ORIOLES (30-28)
First pitch: Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: Oakland -105, Baltimore -105, Total: 9
The Athletics head to Camden Yards on Friday to take on the Orioles in the first contest of a three-game series.
Oakland looks to be the cream of the crop in the American League once again and is 7-3 over its past 10 games while facing the Tigers, Angels and Yankees. The club nearly took a series sweep against New York in the last set, but after coming from behind for victories in the first two contests, it couldn't handle Masahiro Tanaka in a 2-1 loss on Thursday. The A's bullpen dominated in the series though, pitching seven scoreless innings with five strikeouts. 1B Brandon Moss (.284 BA) was 5-for-12 against the Yankees with two homers and 3 RBI, increasing his season totals to 15 HR and 49 RBI. Baltimore had won four consecutive games before losing by a score of 8-6 on Thursday night to the Rangers. The club could not overcome an early five-run hole, even though its offense has been great in the past four contests with 29 runs (7.3 per game). OF Nelson Cruz (.319 BA) brings his league-leading 21 home runs and 55 RBI into this contest while going 14-for-34 (.412) with five long balls, 11 RBI and eight runs over his past 10 games. Grabbing the start for the visiting Athletics will be LHP Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.60 ERA) who is 3-0 in his past five starts. Opposing him for the Orioles will be LHP Wei-Yin Chen (6-2, 4.26 ERA), as he looks to improve on his team-leading six wins. Oakland has been absolutely amazing on the road, going 20-11 this season, while Baltimore is just 11-12 at home. Over the past three seasons, this matchup has gone the way of the Orioles, as they hold a slight 9-7 advantage against the A’s while going 5-4 in home games. Bettors should know that Oakland is 17-5 this year with a money line of -100 to -150, but Baltimore has gone 13-4 in the past three seasons when Chen is pitching at home with the money line being +125 to -125. On the injury front, the Athletics will continue to be without OF Josh Reddick (knee), and the Orioles are still missing the bat of C Matt Wieters (elbow) in their lineup.
Tommy Milone has looked like a different pitcher in his past five starts, going 3-0 while allowing six runs in 32.1 IP (1.67 ERA) with a 23:7 K/BB ratio. He has dropped his ERA over two runs in those starts while his team has gone 4-1 with wins against some very tough teams (Washington, Tampa Bay, Detroit, L.A. Angels). Milone has never really been a strikeout pitcher with a pedestrian 6.6 K/9 career rate and has struck out 39 batters in 60 innings (5.9 K/9) in 2014. He earned a no-decision in his last start on Saturday, going six frames against the Angels while giving up nine hits with all three of the earned runs coming off a home run. Baltimore has never given him much of an issue to this point in his career, as he is 1-1 with a 0.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, while allowing one home run and striking out seven in 13 innings. Both OF Nelson Cruz (3-for-13, 3 RBI) and 1B Chris Davis (1-for-5, 1 RBI) have a home run against Milone, while 3B Manny Machado is 3-for-5 with a double against the 27-year-old lefty. The Athletics’ bullpen has gone 12-10 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.07 WHIP this season while converting just 12-of-20 (60%) saves. Sean Doolittle (2.57 ERA, 7 saves) has taken over the closer role and is perfect in his past six save chances while putting up a ridiculous 39:1 K/BB ratio over 28 frames this year.
Wei-Yin Chen has been a solid yet unspectacular part of the Orioles’ rotation for the past three seasons while putting up an ERA between 4.00 and 4.30 each year. This season, he has been on the unlucky side of a .333 BABIP, but has shown amazing control while walking just 11 batters in 63.1 frames (1.6 BB/9). Chen bounced back from two straight poor outings in his last start on Sunday, going 5.1 innings against the Astros while giving up just one run on five base-runners (4 H, 1 BB) with six strikeouts. While Milone has been great against the Orioles, Chen has been even better in his career versus the Athletics in three tries, going 3-0 with a nearly flawless 0.44 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He has 21 strikeouts over the three outings (20.2 IP) and has allowed just five hits with a single unearned run in the past two (13.2 IP). OF Coco Crisp has done well in the matchup, going 3-for-8 against Chen, while OF Yoenis Cespedes is 2-for-6. Meanwhile, 3B Josh Donaldson is hitless in three at-bats against the lefty. Baltimore’s bullpen is 10-8 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, and is 18-for-27 (67%) in save opportunities. Zach Britton (0.88 ERA, 5 saves) has gone 5-for-6 in saves since becoming the closer while getting ground balls 78% of the time with his nasty sinker.