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OAK@TOR: Blackley fans a career-high eight in victory

TORONTO -- Like clockwork, never mind a different time zone, the A's won another game on Tuesday.

Not even a shift across the border could halt a surge that has the baseball world talking.

The A's sixth straight victory, a 7-2 decision over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, featured more of the same from the American League's best pitching staff -- southpaw Travis Blackley fired seven innings of one-run ball with a career-high eight strikeouts despite feeling "airheady" -- and an overwhelming dose of offensive support highlighted by a five-run seventh.

All runs came with two outs, a nod to this team's increasingly uncanny ability to "persevere, going out there and being clutch," as Jemile Weeks put it. That very characteristic has helped the A's win 10 of their last 11 and improve to eight games over .500.

Manager Bob Melvin's club is a Major League-best 15-2 in July, as a playoff push is now in full force.

"We're on a roll," Blackley said. "We're enjoying the game. We expect to come up big in certain situations, and we've been doing it over and over again. When you get that two-out baserunner out there, you need that big two-out hit to support it. It just feels like we do it every time, and I think the guys have taken that mentality to the plate, and it's great to watch.

"When things are going good, they're going good. But we have to keep putting our head down and working hard to keep it going. This game will humble you quick."

Between the lines, though, the A's are not playing shy. And, naturally, they waited to strike hardest in the later innings, after clinging to a 2-1 lead through the first six. Having played in one-run games for five straight days, the A's bucked the trend and busted out for a handful of runs -- literally -- in the seventh, when Yoenis Cespedes pushed aside a three-strikeout day and notched a rare three-run single off J.A. Happ, following Weeks' RBI triple and Coco Crisp's ensuing run-scoring double.

Cespedes, proving to be a key cog in Oakland's lineup, has 13 RBIs over the last 11 games, and his ability to recover from a trio of disappointing at-bats and notch the game's biggest hit speaks volumes about the Cuban's effervescent yearn to make adjustments.

"He's a tough kid," Melvin said. "He doesn't get down on himself. I've often said that. He'll get upset with himself, and you'll see he kind of wears it on his sleeves sometimes, but he goes up there with more conviction the next time. One thing you never have to worry about with him is getting down on himself."

Down in the lineup, hitting from the seventh spot, rookie Derek Norris was responsible for handing the A's an early lead -- they're 34-13 when scoring first -- by way of a two-run homer in the second off Toronto lefty Brett Cecil that reached the second deck.

Cecil, struggling to keep his spot in the Blue Jays' rotation, gave them six innings of work with eight strikeouts.

But Blackley proved even better, even on a day when his cutter, he said, was "disgustingly bad." The lefty allowed a third-inning solo shot to Travis Snider, but was nearly untouchable otherwise, allowing just four other hits while walking one and fanning five of the final six batters he faced.

"I felt like a fish out of water early, didn't have a rhythm on anything, really," he said. "My cutter didn't work at all. It was backing up, it was driving straight into the ground. I didn't realize how much I needed that pitch until the start of this game. Luckily the curveball was just phenomenal today. I was able to throw it for strikes and that pretty much changed the game for me today. I didn't hit many spots with any other pitch."

"He mixed up his pitches really well," Melvin said. "Norris did a great job behind the plate, recognizing what was working for him and sticking with that. That's a team you can't get off to a slow start on, for the most part, and he recovered nicely with his command and held them down. It was good to see. He's been awfully consistent for us since he's been here."

Since coming to the A's off waivers in mid-May, Blackley has been the most pleasant of surprises, compiling a 3.15 ERA in nine starts, including a 2.07 mark and 3-0 ledger over his last seven outings.

His efforts have proven consistent with those of his pitching teammates, as well as the ones being had by the club's hitters.

"Our at-bats have been better, whether it's adding on runs, the intensity of a late-game at-bat, the intensity of a two-out at-bat," Melvin said. "We've been getting much better with all of those."

"One through nine, anybody can do it on this team," Weeks said. "Anybody can go up there and be a threat, and I think we're continuing to prove that and continuing to be a story."

The most intriguing story, at that.

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