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BAL@OAK: Norris throws out Avery to seal the 3-2 win

OAKLAND -- Rookie left-hander Tommy Milone wrote his name in the Oakland A's record book with the biggest win of his young career Friday night.

Milone allowed just two runs over 6 1/3 innings to earn his 13th victory as the A's beat the Orioles, 3-2, in the opener of a three-game series between two of the American League's most surprising teams.

Milone set an Oakland record for most victories by a rookie. He had shared the mark with Chris Codiroli (1983) and Joe Blanton (2005).

Playing before of a sellout crowd of 35,067 and in a playoff-like atmosphere at the Oakland Coliseum, the A's extended their lead in the American League Wild Card race to two games over Baltimore and the New York Yankees, who are tied for first in the AL East.

"That's really impressive," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Milone's record. "Doesn't get lost on us. I congratulated him on tying it [Sunday]. The next thing he said was, 'It's time to break it.'"

Milone said he was motivated by a pregame visit in the clubhouse by right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who underwent emergency brain surgery last week after being hit in the head by a line drive. He got another boost from the large, loud crowd, who came out to watch a battle between playoff contenders -- and see postgame fireworks.

"It was awesome," Milone said of the crowd. "It kind of motivates you to go out there. When the crowd's behind you, it's just uplifting. It's just a lot of fun."

Milone allowed six hits and walked two, snapping his streak of 14 starts with one or no walks, an Oakland record he shares with Gil Heredia. But he induced the Orioles to hit into three double plays, one in the fourth, fifth and sixth.

With one out and a runner on first in the seventh, Milone gave way to right-hander Pat Neshek. Neshek walked Manny Machado but got Robert Andino to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

"It's huge," Milone said of the double plays. "It's momentum killers for them. They're getting guys on base, but I feel like I was able to make quality pitches with those guys on base to get out of it. I feel like a few games before this I was struggling with that big pitch and tonight I was able to get it."

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the third with an unearned run, but the A's surged ahead 2-1 in the fourth when Yoenis Cespedes hit his 19th home run of the season with Jonny Gomes aboard after a leadoff single. Cespedes, who left Thursday's game against the Angels with a sprained right wrist, hit the first pitch he saw from Orioles left-hander Joe Saunders and lined it over the left-field wall. He homered for the third time in the past four games.

Saunders was 13-4 lifetime against the A's and 6-1 at Oakland before taking the loss Friday.

"I like pitching here," Saunders said. "The pitch to Cespedes I think was a good pitch. You've got to tip your cap on that one. He just muscled it up. I think that was the one thing that hurt me tonight.

"It was just a good all-around game. It was pretty much a playoff atmosphere. As a player, it was a lot of fun. The fans were into it. It brings out the best in you."

Baltimore answered in the top of the fifth with Chris Davis' leadoff home run to center off Milone, making it 2-2.

The A's moved ahead 3-2 with a run in the bottom of the frame. Adam Rosales roped a leadoff double down the left-field line, moved to third on Coco Crisp's single and scored on a single by Gomes. The A's had a chance for a big inning, but with runners on first and third with no outs, Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds made a leaping catch of Josh Reddick's line drive. Then he stepped on first to double off Gomes.

Ryan Cook pitched a one-two-three eighth and Grant Balfour worked a scoreless ninth for the A's, but not without some tension.

Balfour gave up an infield single to Matt Wieters. But he struck out pinch-hitter Endy Chavez and retired Reynolds on a fly to left. Then with a 1-2 count to Davis, pinch-runner Xavier Avery tried to steal second, but Derek Norris gunned him down, ending the game as the sellout crowd erupted.

"Just to see that many people tonight is awesome," Balfour said. "It really makes a huge difference for our team."

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