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Orioles-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

Sonny Gray has made quite the transition to the majors since being called up in mid-July last season, becoming one of manager Bob Melvin's most consistent pitchers in Oakland's rotation.

Gray hasn't been able to solve the Baltimore Orioles, though, and he'll take the mound Sunday looking to help the Athletics take two of three in this series between first-place clubs.

The 24-year-old right-hander is 15-6 with a 2.75 ERA in 29 starts since making his debut July 10, 2013, and he's allowed three earned runs or fewer in 16 of his 19 outings this season.

Gray (10-3, 2.79 ERA) posted a 5.50 ERA in six starts from May 27-June 28, but he's won each of his three starts since with a 0.83 ERA after giving up an unearned run through 7 2-3 innings of last Sunday's 4-1 victory at Seattle.

''We've leaned on him as hard as you can lean on a young pitcher since the time he's gotten here,'' Melvin said. ''Nothing surprises me with him. He really wanted to go out there and give us that type of effort (in his last start) so we'd have a good feeling going into the break.''

Gray hasn't fared very well in two road outings against Baltimore, though, giving up six runs in 3 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss Aug. 25 before allowing five runs and walking four in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-3 defeat June 7.

Gray allowed a homer to Adam Jones in the first inning in that outing, and Jones blasted a three-run shot in the first inning of the Orioles' 8-4 win over Oakland on Saturday.

Nick Markakis, hitting .400 during a 10-game hitting streak against the A's, went 4 for 5 and Steve Pearce added three hits for the Orioles (53-43), who remained four games ahead of the New York Yankees and Toronto atop the AL East.

Jones had two hits and drove in a career high-tying five runs after going 0 for 9 over his previous three contests. His effort helped Baltimore bounce back from Josh Donaldson's three-run walkoff homer in the A's 5-4 win Friday.

''I just kind of stepped back during the workout on Thursday at how professional, focused and engaged they were,'' manager Buck Showalter said. ''They know the challenge ahead of them and how hard it's going to be with the schedule that we have to play the rest of the way.''

Baltimore looks to take the series behind Kevin Gausman, who allowed one run and struck out six in seven innings to beat Gray last month in his only career start against AL West-leading Oakland (60-37).

Gausman (4-2, 3.29) was recalled for his fifth stint with the Orioles last Sunday, when he allowed one run in five innings of a 3-1 win over the New York Yankees. It wound up as a complete game after the contest was called due to rain.

The right-hander allowed a homer to Brett Gardner leading off the contest, but he settled in after that.

"If I keep pitching well, I'll probably stay here," Gausman told MLB's official website. "If I don't, I'll go down. When you get an opportunity you've got to take it."

Gausman faces an A's club coming off only its second defeat in its last 14 at home. Jed Lowrie is hitting .405 over his last 11 after going 2 for 4 with three RBIs on Saturday, but he was the only Oakland player with multiple hits.

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