The Oakland Athletics have broken out at the plate in a big way, and A.J. Griffin mixed some stellar work early on with some middle inning dingers to lead the club to their fourth win in a row as they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 9-4.
Yoenis Cespedes went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and Josh Reddick brought three more in as the middle of the order is finally clicking at the same time, and Griffin went seven innings with five strikeouts as the A’s improved to a season-high 20 games over .500.
They picked up where they left off Sunday, scoring four runs in the opening frame to set the tone early. Coco Crisp drew a leadoff walk, and a ground ball off the bat of Eric Sogard got past Edwin Encarnacion at first to put baserunners on first and third for Jed Lowrie. He came out swinging and went down 0-2 before battling back and smacking a single to right to bring Crisp home and give Oakland a 1-0 lead with no outs.
Cespedes was up next, and he shot a grounder past Brett Lawrie at third that would roll all the way to the wall in right field foul territory, and he’d end up with a bases-clearing, stand up triple that put the A’s up 3-0.
At that point Toronto starter Esmil Rogers still hadn’t gotten an out, and a coaching visit to the mound inspired the right hander to strike out Brandon Moss. After Josh Donaldson drew a walk, Josh Reddick got under a fastball, resulting in a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 4-0, and Seth Smith grounded out to end the onslaught.
The A’s put two more on base in the second but couldn’t bring them home, however that wasn’t the case in the third, as Brandon Moss led off with a single and came home thanks to a double down the right field line by Seth Smith. The hit snapped an 0-for-30 run by Smith — the longest hitless streak of his career — and his RBI gave Griffin a 5-0 cushion to work with.
The right-hander had a perfect game going into the fifth inning, but after striking out Encarnacion in three pitches, Griffin left a fastball over the plate for Adam Lind, and it got bashed over the right field wall to give the Blue Jays their first hit and first run of the night.
Griffin got through the rest of the inning without incident, and Oakland’s hitters responded in the bottom of the fifth with three more runs to answer back. After a one-out single up the middle by Moss, Donaldson hit a line drive to center, and Reddick brought them both home on a double that went deep in the gap in left-center to make it 7-0. Smith started a new streak when he hit a single and moved Reddick over to third in his next at-bat, and Stephen Vogt capped it off with an RBI single to give the A’s an 8-1 advantage.
With the exception of Lind’s home run, it had been a flawless night for Oakland, but when Lawrie took Griffin deep to lead off the sixth it certainly put a damper on the mood, and after retiring the next two batters and walking Jose Bautista, Griffin gave up one more to Encarnacion, and suddenly the Blue Jays had made it 8-4.
The two homers put Griffin’s total on the year at 26, which is the most in all of baseball. It’s an odd thing, because he’s often unhittable for long stretches and looked like an All-Star for much of the night, but it’s been a trend for all of the A’s sophomore starters, as Tommy Milone is tied for ninth with 20 on the year and Jarrod Parker is a few tiers below with 16.
Ultimately it wouldn’t make a difference in regards to the outcome. Oakland loaded the bases in the seventh but didn’t capitalize, and Cespedes pulled a changeup to left field to break a home run drought dating back to June 21, making it 9-4 with the solo shot.
Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins took care of business on the mound in the final two frames to give the A’s their fourth win in a row.
If the offense can keep up the pace and the pitching stays the course, Oakland looks poised to run away with the division and become a serious threat to win it all.
Oakland remains six games ahead of the Rangers after Texas staged a comeback in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Angels 4-3.