Behind recently called up rookie Ryon Healy’s first career hit and home run, the Oakland Athletics made it back-to-back wins out of the break with a 5-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.
For the first time in nearly three months, starter Sonny Gray finds himself in the win column for the A’s (40-51). Three homers — a pair from Khris Davis to go with Healy’s seal-breaker — aided the ace through some rough patches as he lasted just 6 innings, holding the potent Blue Jays (51-42) to three runs (all earned) while walking four and striking out two.
Toronto starter R.A. Dickey (L, 7-10, 4.11 ERA) suffered the loss serving up the trio of taters, lasting 6 innings.
Davis, who has been impressed by the rookie’s energy, said:
“That was great. That was a huge hit, to put us ahead. We gave him a little silent treatment, when he got back in (to the dugout), and he had a big smile on his face. That was nice to see.”
Gray (W, 4-8, 5.12 ERA) scattered base runners all game — allowing at least one per inning and 10 total — but was able to hold the line once given the lead, for his first win since an 8-5 victory at the same Jays on April 22.
Following a laborious first frame, in which he needed 21 pitches to work around a walk, Gray was tagged for a double on the very first pitch of the second. As the screamer off the bat of Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki scooted down the left-field line, just out of reach of a diving Healy, the starter’s head slumped to his chest.[envira-gallery id=”193357″]
Three batters later, with two outs and a pair on after a walk, the little righty served up a two-run double to Dickey’s knuckleball catcher Josh Thole . It was Thole’s second extra-base hit of the season, and first since a homer in his first at-bat of the season on April 4.
He was able to settle in, however, and allowed a single run from then on. Of the emotional rebound, Gray said:
“I really stopped fighting it — stopped trying to be too perfect. You just try to go out there and compete. … I think I did enough to keep us in it. It was a step in the right direction.”
Manager Bob Melvin agreed with his hurler:
“He did his best work toward the end of the game, which I was impressed with. … It’s a good sign for us.”
The Oakland offense denied the attempt of Thole and Dickey for a shutdown inning.
Leading off the bottom of the second, Davis lifted what appeared to be a fly-ball out. But, it carried just over the 15-foot high wall between the 362- and 388-foot markers for a solo bomb (21). After a single, walk and fly out Healy earned his magical moment.
Lining a 66 MPH, 2-2 knuckler down the left-field line the 24 year-old watched it sail just inside the foul pole for a three-run go-ahead jack (1) — his first career hit.
“I kinda peeked up to see, and I was hoping it would stay fair because I saw it starting to fade a little bit. Once it went out, a big rush of adrenaline ran through my body.”
The Blue Jays answered right back with a long homer to left-center from designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (24). First baseman Justin Smoak made things tight in the ninth with his 10th homer of the season.
The most impressive of the game’s five dingers, though, came on Davis’ second swat (22) — scoring what proved to be the deciding run. Responding to Encarnacion’s third-inning homer in the sixth, Davis pulverized a first-pitch knuckleball the opposite way into the seats in right-center.
Of the massive big fly, the skipper said:
“You can probably count how many guys can hit the ball that far to (the opposite) field. It looked like a golf ball — it just kept getting smaller and smaller.”
“Khrush,” who said that Melvin likes to joke about the surprise in his opposite-field “juice,” added:
“We’re playing some good ball, and that break was just a breath of fresh air. I’m just catching my second wind and enjoying it.”
For the second straight day, the bullpen put a seal on the explosive Blue Jay bats with closer Ryan Madson saving (19) the win for his ace.
The series concludes with a Sunday matinée.
Getting the ball in search of the sweep for the A’s will be Rich Hill (9-3, 2.25 ERA), who was scratched from Friday night’s start due to a blister on his throwing hand. He will be opposed by fellow veteran lefty J.A. Happ (12-3, 3.36 ERA).