Orioles Surprising Everyone

The Baltimore Orioles have emerged as baseball's biggest surprise early this season.

They'll look for a seventh straight home victory Monday night when they begin a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics.

Baltimore (11-7) has won four straight overall and eight out of nine after completing its first three-game home sweep of Toronto in 13 years with a 7-3 victory on Sunday.

Oddsmakers have made Orioles -120 point spread favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (View MLB Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Oakland +110 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada each had three RBIs for the Orioles.

"We've got to win as many we can and ride it as long as we can," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "So far, everything seems to be clicking for us right now."

Baltimore's bullpen allowed two runs and three hits over 3 2-3 innings on Sunday, marking the first time in five games it allowed any runs.

"That's the difference this year: Our bullpen has been a lot stronger this year than in the past," Orioles designated hitter Kevin Millar said.

Baltimore hasn't had much success at home against Oakland (9-9), though, since Tejada - a former A's shortstop - signed as a free agent after the 2003, and the Orioles have dropped 11 of 13 meetings. Tejada has batted only .234 (11-for-47) with three RBIs in those games.

Tejada is not the only former Oakland player who could see action for Baltimore in the series opener.

Jay Payton, who hit a team-high .296 for the A's last season, made his first start as an Oriole on Sunday and went 3-for-5 after missing the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season with a strained left hamstring.

"Everybody said from the beginning that if we play the kind of baseball we're capable of, we've got the pieces in here to be successful," Payton said. "There's no reason we can't continue to win."

Payton batted leadoff in place of Brian Roberts, who sat out a second straight game Sunday with the flu. Roberts, off to a slow start at .212, is hoping to return Monday.

Erik Bedard (3-1, 5.40) tries to win his fourth straight start for the Orioles. Bedard gave up four runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-4 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

The left-hander is 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA in four career starts against the Athletics, but has limited them to a .229 batting average.

Several Oakland hitters have struggled against Bedard, including Nick Swisher (1-for-8) and Shannon Stewart (0-for-7).

Oakland, which is trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak of 2007, is coming off a 4-3 loss at Texas on Sunday. Closer Huston Street surrendered a go-ahead, two-run single to Hank Blalock in the eighth inning for his first blown save.

A's starter Dan Haren (1-2, 1.44 ERA) has been outstanding despite getting minimal run support as Oakland has scored just nine runs in his first four starts. He earned his first victory Wednesday by limiting the Los Angeles Angels to four hits over seven innings in a 3-0 victory.

The right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles.

A's center fielder Milton Bradley left Sunday's game in the sixth inning with a left hamstring strain and is day-to-day.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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