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TB@BAL: Chen throws 6 2/3 strong innings vs. Rays

After taking the first two games of their series against the Orioles, the A's will try to stay hot and get the sweep on Sunday.

If he pitches like he did in his last start for Oakland, left-hander Travis Blackley seems a good bet to keep Baltimore from earning a win in a disappointing weekend.

Good pitching has been the story all season long for the A's, and despite a couple bumps in the road, that hasn't changed during a stretch that has seen the team win or tie its last seven series and win nine of its past 10 games.

Blackley's performance was a big contributor in one of those Oakland wins, holding the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings on Tuesday. He also struck out a career-high eight batters.

"He mixed up his pitches really well," A's manager Bob Melvin said after Blackley's last start. "[Catcher Derek] 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."

The Orioles would love to have the same success on the mound, but recently that type of pitching has eluded them.

In the team's last four games, Baltimore's starting pitchers have lasted six innings just one time, and sub-par performances from starters is a big reason the Orioles have dropped the first two games of the series against Oakland.

But Wei-Yin Chen could very well buck that starting pitching trend. The left-hander has allowed three runs or less in four of his past five starts, and allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings in his last outing on Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

"I felt like I made one mistake and that's why I lost tonight," Chen said through his interpreter after his last start. "I felt strong and I kept fighting, I never gave up."

The Orioles, who have fallen 3 1/2 games behind the A's for one of the two Wild Card spots, may need an even better effort from Chen to take Sunday's game.

A's: Reddick could return Sunday
• Outfielder Josh Reddick was out of the team's lineup on Saturday as a precaution after crashing into the wall on his game-ending catch on Friday night. He was available to pinch-hit, but didn't end up appearing in the game.

Melvin and head trainer Nick Paparesta, though, said Reddick should be fine to return to the lineup on Sunday, pending another evaluation.

• Injured right-hander Brandon McCarthy threw another bullpen session on Saturday and will now head to Triple-A Sacramento on Monday to make a rehab start. Meanwhile, left-hander Dallas Braden, who was scheduled to throw to hitters on Friday for the first time since his rehab began, pulled his groin while warming up and will be shut down until that injury heals.

McCarthy has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 20 with reoccurring right shoulder soreness. Braden hasn't pitched since last season and is recovering from a strain in his surgically-repaired left shoulder.

Orioles: Thome out with neck spasms
• O's Designated hitter Jim Thome will be out for the foreseeable future after waking up on Saturday with neck spasms, though he was optimistic he won't miss too much time. The spasms are unrelated to the lower back injury that Thome suffered earlier this season.

• Manager Buck Showalter sat catcher Matt Wieters for the second straight game on Saturday, and didn't commit to having Wieters return on Sunday. The 26-year-old is dealing with right biceps soreness.

"If I wanted to really push the envelope, I could probably play him," Showalter said. "I don't think anybody wants to think about not having him right physically, especially with 60-something games left. So, [we will] back off him."

Worth noting
• Oakland was close to acquiring catcher George Kottaras from the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. The A's currently have Kurt Suzuki and Derek Norris on the roster, and the veteran Suzuki has struggled mightily at the plate this season.

• Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts began a rehab assignment for short-season Class A Aberdeen on Saturday. Roberts is hoping to avoid surgery for a labral tear in his right hip.

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