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BAL@CLE: Britton wins his first game of 2012 season

Prior to the season, not many would have expected a late-July series between the Athletics and Orioles to have Wild Card implications for both teams.

Yet thanks to Oakland's blistering play in the month of July and the Orioles' strong first half, both clubs enter the weekend series in the thick of the American League Wild Card race.

The Athletics have been seemingly unstoppable in July, posting a 16-3 record for the month, and just had their seven-game winning streak snapped by the Blue Jays on Thursday. Oakland won five of those seven games by a single run, something that might not bode well against an Orioles team that has been very successful in close games this season. Baltimore enters the series 19-6 in one-run contests and 10-2 in extra-inning games.

"That's a good team," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We played some very competitive games with them last time. You look at their numbers, especially in one-run games and extra-inning games, they've played a lot of those and have done very well. It should be a good matchup."

While the A's have stormed out of the All-Star break, the Orioles have had an up-and-down start to the season's second half. Baltimore has already sandwiched a five-game winning streak between a pair of three-game skids, but its win in Thursday's series finale against the Rays put the Orioles back into sole possession of second place in the AL East.

The Orioles are also hoping to get a boost down the stretch from starter Zach Britton, who will be making just his third start of the season on Friday. The 24-year-old lefty made his season debut on July 17 after starting the season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

Britton got off to a rocky start, allowing four runs on six hits in just four innings in that debut, but twirled a gem his second time out. The southpaw hurled six shutout innings Sunday against the Indians, conceding just four hits while striking out five.

"I just completely forgot about that [first] start and started moving on to my bullpen [session]," said Britton, who began a rehab stint with Triple-A Norfolk on June 6. "That's one of those things I learned down in Triple-A. Whether it was a good outing or a bad outing, you have to turn the page."

Athletics: Parker looking to build off gem
• Rookie right-hander Jarrod Parker will take the mound in Friday's series opener, looking to build off a dominant victory against the Yankees his last time out.

Parker bounced back from two subpar outings to limit the Yankees to one run over eight innings of work last Saturday. Including that outing, the 23-year-old has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 16 starts this season.

Orioles: Eveland recalled, Tolleson optioned
• The Orioles' bullpen got a pair of boosts Thursday, one day after it was called upon to pitch 6 1/3 innings in Wednesday's loss.

Along with starter Chris Tillman pitching six strong innings in Thursday's series finale, the club recalled left-hander Dana Eveland from Triple-A Norfolk to give manager Buck Showalter an extra arm out of the 'pen. Utility player Steve Tolleson was optioned to Norfolk to make room for Eveland.

"Trying to keep [the bullpen] intact and healthy, like we've been fortunate enough to do all season," said Showalter.

Worth noting
• The Orioles, who lead the current head-to-head series, 2-1, haven't beaten the Athletics in the season series since 1998. Oakland is 12-0-1 against Baltimore in the last 13 season series.

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