After a record-setting first half, the major league-leading Oakland Athletics are looking to pick up where they left off before the All-Star break.
So are the Baltimore Orioles, who have climbed to the top of the AL East.These division leaders square off Friday night in Oakland in their first meeting since things got heated early last month.The Athletics (59-36) won 4-1 at Seattle on Sunday to set a franchise mark for victories in the first half. Oakland, which has won six straight and 11 of 12 at home, owns a 1 1/2-game lead over Los Angeles in the West.The A's were well represented by six players -- as well as newcomer Jeff Samardzija -- at Tuesday's All-Star game. Catcher Derek Norris went 1 for 2 with a run scored as the AL won 5-3."Hopefully in several months we can look back and talk about how we were able to give ourselves home-field advantage," closer Sean Doolittle told MLB's official website. "A lot can happen between now and then, of course, but we know what the goal is."Oakland took two of three at Baltimore from June 6-8, but that series was overshadowed by two bench-clearing incidents caused by Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.He got into it with Josh Donaldson following what seemed to be a routine tag by the A's third baseman in Game 1, then appeared to purposely let go of his bat on a swing-and-miss two days later after Fernando Abad twice threw inside."What he's doing, it's a disgrace to baseball, and I think it's sad to see someone of his talent and national recognition have things like that stain your career," Norris said afterward.Machado, who served a five-game suspension for his actions, is hitting .410 with five homers over a 16-game stretch. The Orioles (52-42), winners in 10 of 13, hadn't entered the break in first since 1997."We have a goal of going out and winning the division this year," Chris Davis said after hitting a two-run homer in Sunday's rain-shortened 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees. "We wanted to kind of control our own destiny. We're definitely in the driver's seat right now and hopefully we can keep it going."The Orioles will try to stay hot against Samardzija, who is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in two starts since coming over from the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander went the distance in last Friday's 3-2 loss at Seattle, yielding five hits and striking out five.This marks his first appearance against the Orioles, who counter with Chris Tillman (7-5, 4.11). The right-hander has gone 2/3 with a 2.47 ERA over his last seven starts while receiving an average of 2.9 runs of support."I think (I'm) getting better," Tillman said. "I had a rough start, but it's not how you start; it's how you finish."Tillman is 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three outings against the A's. Yoenis Cespedes has struck out three times in as many at-bats in their matchups.It was a memorable All-Star experience for Cespedes, who joined Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to successfully defend their Home Run Derby titles. Cespedes, though, is 2 for 41 with one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 11 games.Donaldson has also struggled, going 7 for his last 45. His only hit in 12 at-bats against the Orioles this year was a homer.
Josh Donaldson has slugged .606 this season in at-bats to end in a pitch in the upper third of the zone or higher, sixth best in the AL. Chris Tillman has thrown 40.5 percent of his pitches in that zone this season, the second-highest rate in baseball.