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OAK@BAL: Cespedes swats two-run shot to put A's ahead

BALTIMORE -- Bartolo Colon has been on eight different teams in his 15-year career, but he's never had this much fun.

The 39-year-old right-hander won the Cy Young Award in 2005 and pitched deep into the playoffs in 1998, but in terms of pure, unadulterated fun, nothing compares to this year's A's squad.

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

How could he not be having a blast? Behind his 5 2/3 scoreless innings and homers from Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter, the A's notched a 6-1 win at Camden Yards on Saturday, clinching the series and improving to a Major-League best 18-3 in July.

The A's are now 10 games over .500 for the first time since the final day of the 2006 season, thanks to a Major League-best 12-2 mark since the All-Star break.

"It's been real fun," Jemile Weeks said. "It's been impressive. I think for a lot of people, surprising, the fans and everybody watching. For me, I always knew that this team was going to be somebody that could make some noise, and we're just starting to show that now, and it's pleasing to see."

The A's have compiled both wins and home runs in abundance during their hot stretch, with the blasts from Cespedes and Carter giving the team 28 since the All-Star break, the highest total in the Majors.

"The potential was there," said A's manager Bob Melvin, citing the contributions Carter, Brandon Hicks and Brandon Moss have made since their arrival. "Once they've gotten here and started swinging the bat that way, you watch our batting practices now and it's completely different. We're hitting a lot of balls out of the ballpark."

Of all the A's batting practice bombs, perhaps none were more impressive than the blast Cespedes launched on his final warmup pitch Saturday, hitting a ball at least 460 feet, off of the upper half of the batting eye well beyond the center-field wall at Camden Yards.

Cespedes said his batting practice felt a lot better on Saturday than Friday, and it showed in a 2-for-4 performance, starting with a two-run home run against Baltimore starter Tommy Hunter that give the A's a fourth-inning lead, 2-0.

"We've seen plenty of these nights to know that he's a force," Melvin said.

Cespedes added another RBI in the eighth, smashing a triple to the gap in right-center to plate Weeks -- who was 3-for-5 with two runs and a stolen base for his first three-hit game since Sept. 24.

Cespedes is batting .439 with five home runs and 17 RBIs since the All-Star break. He also made an impact in the field, displaying impressive speed to make an impressive backhanded snag on a drive Omar Quintanilla drilled to the gap in left-center field.

"He's a toolsy player," Weeks said. "That's why they paid him what they paid him. He's showing what he can do. He hits home runs, he's got speed, and he's got a strong arm. He's got five tools, and he displayed them all tonight."

Carter homered for the second consecutive night, sending a 1-1 fastball from Hunter high and deep into the night for a two-run shot that gave the A's a 5-0 lead in the sixth. In only 56 at-bats this season, Carter has launched eight home runs.

"We're seeing Chris Carter, the guy that we've all hoped and anticipated him being," Melvin said. "For right now, he's quite a force."

Although Colon said the hot, humid weather made him feel "weird" for the first two innings, the righty scattered seven hits and a walk in 5 2/3 shutout frames.

Colon pounded the Orioles with his typical barrage of fastballs and always managed to get key outs when he needed them, holding the O's 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and 2-for-10 with men on base.

The Orioles failed to advance a runner past second until the sixth, when a Mark Reynolds single with two outs put runners on first and third, ending Colon's night.

Jordan Norberto came on and struck out Quintanilla, preserving the starter's scoreless line.

Nick Markakis' ninth-inning home run snapped Evan Scribner's shutout streak at 11 1/3 innings, but it was all the offense the Orioles could muster, keeping the A's surprising run going.

"I believe that this team can do this right now," Cespedes said. "When we were in Spring Training, this team was one of the best teams. Now everybody sees that, little by little, the team is getting better and better and better."

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