Josh Donaldson ninth-inning double drops A’s

The Oakland Athletics fell short of sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays, dropping Sunday’s afternoon tilt 5-3.

After dealing with adversity beginning with the game’s very first batter, the A’s (40-52) attempt at a third-straight comeback victory came up one swing shy.

The Blue Jays (52-42) rode a strong showing from former Athletic Josh Donaldson, who contributed a pair of hits and ninth-inning RBIs, in staving off the sweep and earning a happy flight. Jason Grilli (W, 3-1, 3.98 ERA) was credited with the win for his perfect eighth frame.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rich Hill (ND, 9-3, 2.25 ERA) was scratched from his start Friday night due to a blister on his throwing hand, and lasted just five pitches Sunday before the blister popped, forcing his removal. Officially, he did not face a single batter — departing with a 3-2 count on Toronto lead-off man Devon Travis.

The hurler, who was making his third start since returning from a groin injury, said that the experience is both new and “disappointing”:

“I’ve never had anything like this before. I’ve had blisters on my finger — on different parts — but nothing like this. … It’s going to take three of four days, just for the healing process to begin.””

His replacement, Andrew Triggs (0-0, 5.83 ERA), was able to finish the frame but was pulled as well, diagnosed with a left calf contusion after being smoked by a liner off the bat of reigning AL MVP Donaldson.

Manager Bob Melvin said:

“We’ll see how he’s doing tomorrow — he might be a little sore tomorrow. He’s a tough guy, it was a good one, but he stayed out there.”

He added:

“After losing two pitchers in the first inning, with a limited bullpen to start (with both Ryan Madson and Ryan Dull unavailable), I thought we played pretty well — responded pretty well. It was a nice little fight until the end, they had a key hit when they had to in the ninth.”

Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ (ND, 12-3, 3.28 ERA) was pelted with a pair of line drives as well, and was forced into an early departure.

While Toronto was able to squeeze 5-2/3 innings out of their starter, the A’s scheduled Tuesday starter Sean Manaea (3-5, 5.32 ERA) was forced into the fray, after a shortened warmup, to start the third. Relieving the bullpen of what appeared would be a long afternoon for the bullpen, the “Throwin’ Samoan” provided 5 innings of work, allowing just a two-run homer to Troy Tulowitzki in the fourth.

The skipper said that the lefty’s use came out of necessity:

“It’s tough to ask a kid to do something like that but we didn’t have enough to get through the game, bullpen-wise, if we didn’t use him. … I’m sure he didn’t some to the ballpark thinking, ‘you know, I might pitch today.’ … Aside from one pitch, he pitched really well.”

Manaea, who told SFBay he normally throws about 25 pitches off the mound when preparing for a start, was summoned to the “game mound” without one, though he was given additional throws due to the injury-caused departure of Triggs.

It was new experience for him, with his only previous relief appearance coming in the Cape Cod League in 2012, but Manaea was happy with his showing:

“I’ve only relieved once — when I was in college. I kind of has an idea that I was going to throw today — it is my bullpen day. … It was pretty weird to me, but it felt good.”

Happ was perfect through three and looked to be cruising. After getting drilled in left forearm by a Josh Reddick fourth-inning liner, however, things began to unravel for the lefty.

Oakland sent nine men to the plate in the sixth, tallying three runs to tie the game. The scoring, which started with a solo homer from Marcus Semien (20), was capped by a pinch-hit, two-out double.

Yonder Alonso is batting .294 in July after posting a .322 average in June, and welcomed former A’s pitcher Jesse Chavez by serving a 2-1 sinker into the left-center gap, just past left fielder Michael Saunders, chasing both Danny Valencia and Khris Davis home.

John Axford (L, 3-3, 5.21 ERA), whose ERA has risen with each passing month, was victimized for two-out double by Donaldson, bringing two home in the ninth. Blue Jay closer Roberto Osuna (2-1, 2.16 ERA) worked a perfect bottom half, earning the save (19).

The Green and Gold now focus their efforts on the division rival Houston Astros (50-42), who come to town for a three-game set.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.