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OAK@LAA: Straily fans Kendrick to escape early jam

When the season began, Dan Straily expected to competing for a championship in October, just not the one he's competing for now.

Straily began the season in Double-A Midland, where he went 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 14 starts, striking out 108 and walking 23 in 85 1/3 innings. He spent some time with Triple-A Sacramento before making his Major League debut Aug. 3 and picking up his first big league victory a couple weeks after that. He earned his second one in his most recent outing, holding the Angels to three runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking one in a 6-5 win over the Angels on Tuesday.

"When A.J. [Griffin] and I were driving to Texas to start the year, the plan was to go out there and win a Double-A championship," Straily said. "Now we're in the middle of a pennant race. It's awesome. It's right where you want to be. If you would have told me a year ago at this time -- we had just finished our season, we lost the championships in High-A -- if you would have said a year from now you'll be fighting in the AL pennant race or the AL playoff race, I would probably have told you were crazy at the time."

The A's cut the Rangers' lead to two games in the AL West with a 5-3 win over the Orioles, who trail the Yankees by one game in the AL East. Straily is 2-0 with a 3.42 ERA in four starts this year and will make his second start since a brief stint in Sacramento. He was optioned there Aug. 20 when Brett Anderson was activated off the disabled list and called back up Sept. 7.

"I got here the first time, then I got a chance to go down and kind of catch my breath," Straily said. "It's not like it's terrible baseball by any means. It's still very good baseball, but just the whole presence of the stadiums, the media, everything is less."

Randy Wolf will make his first start as a member of the Orioles, who have lost consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month and will try to avoid being swept for the first time since losing three in a row to the Blue Jays on May 28-30. Wolf has made three relief appearances for the Orioles, who signed him Aug. 31 after he was released by the Brewers nine days earlier.

"I always thought somewhere, somehow there was going to be a silver lining," Wolf said. "With Milwaukee it was a nightmare year. I never had a year where I felt good, I felt healthy, and just things were brutal. I know I didn't forget how to pitch, my stuff is still there. It was just a nightmare time. Coming here, you kind of feel a little rejuvenated and excited."

He'll be backed by an Orioles offense that has scored 73 runs this month, the third-most in the AL and hit 22 homers, second-most in the AL. Wolf has allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings for the Orioles, who still own a 2 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the Wild Card race.

"Watching their lineup a little bit, they have a lot of very good hitters," Straily said. "I just got to go out there and just make my pitches when it comes time."

A's: Norberto could begin playing catch soon
Jordan Norberto, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 21 with left elbow tendinitis, is hoping to play catch next week but may or may not return in time to pitch in the postseason. He is 4-1 with a 2.77 ERA, striking out 46 and walking 22 in 52 innings over 39 outings this year.

"We do feel like we have good depth in our bullpen, but man, he was a major contributor," manager Bob Melvin said. "He got righties out, he got lefties out, he gave us length. He pitched late in games, picked up a starter who was struggling early. He was as versatile of a guy as we have. ... Once he starts throwing I'm not sure how long it would take to get him in game shape and how we would do that."

Orioles: Machado among rookies thriving under Showalter
If the season ended today, the Orioles would play in the postseason for the first time in 15 years, thanks in large part to rookies like Manny Machado, who is hitting .270 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 34 games this year.

He preserved a 2-2 tie in Wednesday's win over the Rays by pump-faking a throw to first base before getting pinch-runner Rich Thompson in a rundown between third base and home plate. He later capped the game off with a walk-off single in the 13th inning.

"[Showalter] tries to deflect all that positive attention away from [Machado]," J.J. Hardy said. "I think that's what [Showalter was] doing. Everyone realizes how great a play it was, but he's like, 'It wouldn't have worked if J.J. wasn't there.' I think 30 out of 30 big league shortstops would have been there. It's really not me. I think he was just deflecting that [attention]."

Worth noting
• The A's, who have won eight of their last nine games, have the best record in the Major Leagues since the All-Star break at 41-18 (.695) and have won 61 of 91 games since June 2. • The Orioles fell to 12-18 (.400) against the AL West this season following a loss to the A's on Saturday night. They are 69-46 (.600) against teams from all other divisions. • The Orioles grounded into a double play in four straight innings in Friday night's series opener, marking the second time this season that a team has grounded into a double play in four consecutive innings.

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