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OAK@BAL: Colon shuts down O's to earn seventh win

On the heels of a record-setting month of July, the Athletics have a lot to live up to in August.

Though they started the month with a loss to the Rays, manager Bob Melvin said it isn't about a repeat of July for the A's. When a team has the best July performance in franchise history at 19-5 (.792), it's unrealistic to expect the same thing a month later.

"I think we're more worried about the day and the series," Melvin said. "If you can win series -- at this time of the season, try to incrementally progress from where you are above .500 -- I think that's something we need to focus on, not have the expectation level that we play [14] games over .500 every month."

For Thursday's series opener against the Blue Jays, the A's send hot right-hander Bartolo Colon to the hill. He's coming off 5 2/3 shutout innings in a win over the Orioles on Saturday. He also has a 2.65 ERA in five starts since returning from a right oblique strain and is enjoying playing more than he has in some time.

"I've played with different teams that went to the playoffs and everything," Colon said through an interpreter after his last start. "But right now, the way that this team plays, the way that I see everybody, this team is the most fun I'm having."

To counter Colon, the Blue Jays will send Henderson Alvarez to the mound. The right-hander allowed just one run on five hits in seven innings during his last start against Detroit. It was the eighth time this season he pitched at least seven innings.

Though it was just his third since June 7, Alvarez now leads the team with 11 quality starts.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell attributes some of Alvarez's success in his last start to the fact that he moved back to the third-base side of the mound.

"It's where he feels most comfortable -- and that's the main factor in all of this," Farrell said. "Any time he feels comfortable, he's going to be better -- with more consistent stuff -- and that has carried over."

Athletics: McCarthy close to returning
Right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who's on the comeback trail after suffering a right shoulder sprain in late June, could rejoin the A's rotation at some point next week.

He will make a second rehab start for Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday, barring any setbacks with his scheduled bullpen session on Thursday. He allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings in a rehab start on July 30.

In 12 starts this season with the A's, McCarthy is 6-3 with a 2.54 ERA.

Blue Jays: Offense stumbling
With Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia all on the 15-day disabled list and left fielder Travis Snider traded on Monday night, the Blue Jays' offense is without a lot of the clout that has made it one of the League's best this season.

On Saturday, Toronto had the top-ranked offense in the Major Leagues, but it has scored just seven runs in three games since.

"In the last two weeks, we've lost four middle-of-the-order bats, whether that's through injury or trade," Farrell said. "We're trying to find a combination to keep some innings alive and look to do some other things to try to build an inning where we score more than one run."

Worth noting
• The A's and Blue Jays just played last week in Toronto, with Oakland taking two of three games. They split a two-game series in Oakland in May.

• After their loss on Wednesday, the A's are 1-2 to begin their longest homestand of the season, a 10-game stretch against the Rays, Blue Jays (four games) and Angels (three games). Oakland has won 12 of its last 16 home games, and 20 of its last 28.

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