The Toronto Blue Jays came into the series in Oakland riding just two hot spots in the lineup. Unlike in their wins in the first two games, the Athletics let both burn them, falling 7-5 in 10 innings Wednesday.
In their third attempt at a sweep this season, the A’s (26-33) once again came up short, doing just enough to split the six-game homestand.
While the offense did enough to earn an extra frame in search of the elusive sweep, Frankie Montas (L, 1-1, 6.91 ERA) couldn’t keep the Jays offense in the park, serving up both extra-inning bombs and getting just two outs. About Montas, who has allowed 10 runs in 4-2/3 innings over his last four outings, manager Bob Melvin said:
“He got some balls up in the middle of the zone. … He’s got a good fastball — he’s proud of his heater — but when you get it in the middle of the plate at the big league level against some good hitters, they’re going to turn it around.”
Jumping on a 1-0 fastball in the upper reaches of the strike zone, Rajai sent a screaming liner over the head of the Kevin Pillar in straight-away center. He was sent home with two down when Khris Davis, who boasted his own career 5-for-14 mark against Liriano (ND, 3-2, 5.87 ERA) entering the contest, sent the speedy lead-off man to the plate when he banged a double off the wall in left.
Rajai said that his team’s ability to put seven on the board, especially without relying on the long ball, was a positive:
“I think it’s a good sign. It definitely helps when your lead-off batters get on with those guys mashing in the middle.”
Jharel Cotton couldn’t give his team a shut-down inning, though.
Cotton (ND, 3-6, 5.20 ERA) worked cautiously around Donaldson, Blue Jays hot spot No. 1, walking him twice in three trips to the plate. He worked a different approach facing No. 2, Smoak, though challenging the slugging first baseman with a 2-0 fastball down the middle at the thighs. And he did to it what he did to the A’s Friday. Smoak smoked it, sending a solo home run (16) into the second set of seats in the bleachers overlooking left-center field.
Cotton rebounded to get the next two batters, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin, on strikeouts. But a walk and seeing-eye groundball set Pillar up with a chance to make up for his two base running blunders in the series, and he made good in the most resounding way possible — crushing a 1-2 slider into the open cavern between the wall and bleachers in left-center.
Melvin drew good from Cotton’s ability to get through the inning and continue to finish six frames. He did point out the weakness, though:
“He had two out with nobody on, then the walk to (Chris) Coghlan was really the one that started it. Two-out walk — you don’t walk a guy right there maybe it’s a little different story.”
Cotton, who allowed four hits, four runs and four walks while striking out four, said his focus shifted to after the second:
“I pitched my butt off to go as far as a I can. I went through the sixth, and that was pretty positive.”
Chasing Liriano was a race Rajai wasn’t going to lose.
The Oakland center fielder picked up hits in each of his three at-bats against the Jays lefty, including a triple — ending the game 4-for-5 — finishing a homer shy of the cycle. He also scored four of Oakland’s five runs including one in the bottom of the tenth after doubling with two down.
Rajai, batting .216 after his performance, is hopeful this will be the turning point of his season:
“I’m just hoping that’s the beginning of something that will continue.”
“That’s definitely something I would like to do more throughout the course of this year, to help us score more runs, that would be nice.”
The other was provided by Trevor Plouffe, who brought a powerful history of his own facing Liriano. After walking in the second, Plouffe leaned into his own elevated fastball, sending it over the out-of-town scoreboard in left foe his seventh dinger of the season, and fifth in eight at-bats against Liriano.
The A’s get the travel day off Thursday before opening a four-game series — including a schedule, traditional double-header — in Tampa against the Rays (29-31). The upcoming road trip also includes a stop in south Florida and two games against the Miami Marlins (24-33), who split two at Oakland in late-May.
Marcus Semien took live batting practice before the game. It was the shortstop’s first time doing so since undergoing surgery to repair a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The team expects him to return to action some time in late-June. … Matt Joyce (left quad) was left out of the starting lineup for a second straight game. He did appear as a pinch-hitter in the eight, however, and Melvin expects him to start in right field Friday. … With his fourth-inning home run, Trevor Plouffe ended a career-worst 25 consecutive hitless streak. … The A’s have now hit 54 home runs in Oakland. That production is enough to lead Major League Baseball with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers tied for second with 48.