A’s gun down aggressive Jays, stride to 4-1 win

The Toronto Blue Jays ran themselves out of two solid scoring opportunities. And that was all the window the Oakland Athletics would need to snatch a 4-1 victory Tuesday night.

Jesse Hahn returned from the 10-day disabled list to get the start, and with the help of his defense was able to navigate his second win of the season.

Unlike the Blue Jays (28-31), Oakland’s chances came few and far between. But patience and the ever-elusive clutch hit was the difference, as the A’s (26-32) set up a chance at the sweep and a winning homestand.

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

The win was just the second of the season in which the A’s went without a home run. Manager Bob Melvin was unaware of that stat. He joked:

“We pecked away a little bit, got some big hits when we needed to. … So, we can win a game without hitting a homer.”

For the second time in as many nights, the Blue Jays pushed the envelope, challenging the Oakland arms. For the second time in as many nights, they paid the cost.

Down 1-0 in the third, Ryan Goins, at second following his lead-off single and a Luke Maile ground-out, got hyper-aggressive, as Kevin Pillar did Monday, attempting to steal a game-tying run on a Josh Donaldson infield single up the middle.

What the speedy Goins and third base coach Luis Rivera weren’t accounting for was that the hot-hitting first baseman Yonder Alonso also boasts the arm of a third baseman, a position at which he has made 14 major league appearances. The misstep left Jose Bautista‘s run-producing out of the equation.

Not to be outdone, Pillar offered an encore performance in the fifth, this time challenging Chad Pinder in right at second base. Instead of settling for a one-out single in front of the heart of the Toronto order, the lead-off man attempted to best the A’s strongest arm, and was nabbed.

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) is tagged out attempting to stretch a single into a double in the fifth inning as the Toronto Blue Jays face the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.

Hahn (W, 2-4, 3.40 ERA) called the plays, particularly Pinder’s, were “unbelievable”:

“Chad Pinder, I thought that was a turning point in the game. … I was hoping Pillar was going to run to second because I knew (Pinder) had a really good shot at him.”

Catcher Stephen Vogt was thinking the same thing:

“You can’t talk enough about Pinder, the guy has played two games out there and he’s made two of the best throws I’ve ever seen from the outfield. … Honestly, as he was running for that ball down the line, in the back of my mind I was like ‘go, tell Pillar to go because I want to see it.'”

Hahn told SFBay that the two big plays helped him settle in:

“It kinda gives you momentum. It makes you go back on the mound with some confidence, you want to make it a quick inning. It helps me with my tempo and my momentum.”

The Blue Jays got one back in the bottom of the fifth, plucking Stephen Vogt, who was attempting to score from first on Mark Canha‘s double, on a relay from Ezequiel Carrera in the left field corner to Troy Tulowitzki to Maile at the plate.

While over-reaching base runners stunted Toronto’s offense, the A’s capitalized on every chance they had, scoring in every inning in which they could get a man on base, thanks to a 3-for-7 evening with runners in scoring position.

In the first, it was a Khris Davis sacrifice fly, scoring Rajai Davis, that got things started. In the fifth, the cutting down of Vogt only limited the damage as Adam Rosales‘ grounder off the glove of a diving Tulowitzki sent Canha to the dish. And Oakland seized control in the sixth, boarding the game’s only crooked number.

As has been the case throughout the season, Jed Lowrie was in the mix getting things started with a one-out single. Khris, showing signs of revival from his recent funk, clobbered a line-drive to straight-away center struck well enough to elude one of baseball’s very best defensive outfielders. And Pillar gave it his best effort, finishing a sprint with a leaping effort on the warning track, but it wasn’t enough as Lowrie glided home.

Ryon Healy finished the night’s scoring, tallying his tenth RBI of the homestand on a screaming liner into the gap in left-center. Like Pillar, Carerra gave max effort but his diving attempt to save the run went to no avail.

Hahn said winning without the benefit of a home run was an example of the play his team needs to continue:

“That’s good baseball. If we’re not going to hit home runs, that’s the type of baseball we have to play throughout the year.”

He gave up seven hits and one unearned run, set up by a Healy error starting the fourth. The starter saved the day after the error, though, coaxing an inning-ending double-play with the bases loaded. Said Melvin:

“When he needed to get a ground ball, he got it. And no bigger than the bases loaded one because, if he gives up a hit there, now it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Marco Estrada (L, 4-4, 4.04 ERA) was saddled with the loss, serving up seven hits and four runs in his 5-2/3 innings — he struck out eight to Hahn’s two. Santiago Casilla (S, 10, 4.22 ERA) worked around a lead-off single in the ninth to shut the door.

Lowrie and Donaldson recorded the game’s only multi-hit performances, each going 2-for-3 with a walk, while Khris’ two RBIs were a game high.

On deck

The A’s go for a sweep and 4-2 homestand when Jharel Cotton (3-6, 5.11 ERA) takes the hill Wednesday afternoon. Since being recalled on May 27, Cotton has allowed six hits and four earned runs in 11-1/3 innings of work (3.18 ERA), but has taken a loss in both starts. Francisco Liriano (3-2, 5.94 ERA), who is 2-2 with a 5.45 ERA in seven starts at the Oakland Coliseum, gets the call for the Jays.

Notes

Sean Doolittle (left shoulder) will get one more rehab appearance Wednesday with Triple-A Nashville, manager Bob Melvin said prior to the game. Barring setbacks, the lefty reliever is expected to join the club during the upcoming road trip. … Khris Davis, who left Monday’s game with calf tightness, was back in the lineup Tuesday as the designated hitter, which Melvin said was precautionary. … Matt Joyce was left out of the starting lineup with a left quad strain. Melvin said he expects the right fielder to be back into the lineup Friday at the Tampa Bay Rays. … Ryan Dull (right knee) has taken the first steps toward his return, running and the treadmill and throwing on flat ground. Melvin said he doesn’t expect the right-hander to be back for “a little while.”


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