Blanton gives Athletic support, handcuffs Orioles

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Joe Blanton will be disappointed when August
ends, and it has nothing to do with the unofficial end of summer.

Blanton remained unbeaten this month and lowered his ERA in
August to 0.95, allowing four hits over six shutout innings to lead
the Oakland Athletics past the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 Friday night.

It's been a memorable month for the rookie right-hander, who is
3-0 and has given up only four earned runs in 38 innings. He was
0-3 with a 4.44 ERA in July.

"I'm just getting more comfortable all the time," Blanton
said. "I'm trying to find the strike zone more with my offspeed
pitches and my fastballs."

Bobby Crosby hit a two-run homer, and Eric Chavez drove in a run
and scored one for the Athletics, who have won three straight after
losing seven of eight. Oakland, tied with the New York Yankees for
the AL wild card lead, is 15-3 in its last 18 road games.

Brian Roberts had two hits and an RBI for the Orioles, who
stranded 12 and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Baltimore has lost six of seven.

Cleanup hitter Rafael Palmeiro went 0-for-5 and is 2-for-20
since returning on Aug. 11 from a 10-day suspension for testing
positive for steroids. With two on in the ninth, he hit a
game-ending flyout.

"He's not the only one (struggling). We've got a bunch of guys
out there that are swinging at some bad pitches," Orioles interim
manager Sam Perlozzo said.

Blanton (8-9), meanwhile, would surely have a better record with
more run support. Oakland has scored one run or less in 12 of his
26 starts; he got a no-decision in his last start against Kansas
City despite pitching seven shutout innings.

"I don't know what it is. We go out there and try to get runs
for the guy," Crosby said. "It's unfortunate that we can't get
runs for him."

Blanton struck out six and walked three. He outpitched Bruce
Chen (10-8), who allowed one earned run before yielding Crosby's
homer in the eighth, a drive to left on a 3-1 pitch that gave the
A's a 4-1 lead.

"I knew he had to come in with a strike there," Crosby said.
"I was looking for a fastball, and I got it."

Huston Street, the fourth Oakland pitcher, got four outs for his
17th save.

The 24-year-old Blanton, however, was the main topic of
conversation in the Oakland clubhouse.

"Six shutout innings, oh my goodness. He's been extremely
impressive," A's manager Ken Macha said.

"He's got a lot of poise, a guy that doesn't really act his age
on the mound, so to speak," catcher Jason Kendall said. "You
can't tell it's his first full year."

Down 2-0, the Orioles got a run off Kiko Calero in the seventh.
Eric Byrnes led off with a bunt single, advanced to third on a
single by Luis Matos and scored on a single by Roberts. With one
out, Roberts stole third, but Miguel Tejada struck out and Ricardo
Rincon retired Palmeiro on a grounder.

"We had plenty of chances, no question about that," Perlozzo
said. "We got a little overanxious. In those situations, we're not
swinging at our pitch."

The Athletics got an unearned run in the first inning when
Kendall reached on a throwing error by Tejada at shortstop and
scored on a sacrifice fly by Chavez.

Oakland made it 2-0 in the fourth. Chavez led off with a single,
stole second and came home on a single by Dan Johnson.

The Orioles wasted several scoring chances in the early innings.
Roberts was stranded after hitting a leadoff double in the first;
Matos struck out in the second with two on and two out, then struck
out in the fourth with the bases loaded and two outs.

"Early in the game you get in a tough situation with runners
and you're able to get out of it," Blanton said, "it kind of
gives you added confidence for the rest of the game."

Game notes
Orioles RF Sammy Sosa was scratched from Friday's game with
a lesion under the toenail of his right big toe. He's day-to-day.
... Oakland improved to 15-23 against the AL East. ... Baltimore's
Javy Lopez had a run of five straight hits over two games before
grounding out in the sixth.