It was a bit of an off-day for the pitching staff of the Oakland Athletics, but after keeping things competitive, an extra innings collapse by the bullpen led to a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, giving the series win to the visitors as Oakland moves on to prepare for a meaningful series against the Texas Rangers this weekend.
It was an atypical day for starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, who struggled a bit early before recovering to throw six innings with three walks and seven hits. Toronto starter R.A. Dickey wasn’t much better, giving up six hits with three strikeouts and a walk, but it would be the relievers that decided the contest as Oakland’s lesser-used arms ended up giving up three runs in the 10th to decide the game.
Colon kept it together to pitch through the sixth, and after 97 pitches he handed the ball over to the bullpen. Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle and Grant Balfour collectively allowed one hit and struck out five over the final three frames to shut down Toronto’s offense.
That kept the game tied at 2-2 heading to the bottom of the ninth, and after a 1-2-3 inning by Oakland’s offense, Jesse Chavez came in to pitch the tenth, and he’d give up a run on a double by Jose Bautista to put the A’s behind 3-2.
That was followed by Jerry Blevins coming in to surrender two more, and the A’s hitters were shut down by Brett Cecil in their last chance at the plate to seal the loss.
All in all it was a winnable game for Oakland, and the defeat exposed a weakness in the bullpen when it comes to depth in the lower ranks.
The A’s never really got comfortable in this one, and it felt like they were fighting an uphill battle early. Colon gave up a couple hits in the first two innings, followed by a threat he was lucky to avert in the third when the Blue Jays put two men on with no outs, only for the right-hander to retire the next three batters.
At that point it was clear that Colon didn’t have his best stuff, but Eric Sogard singled with two outs in the bottom of the inning and he came home when Jose Bautista overthrew third base following a line drive to right by Jed Lowrie, giving the pitcher a 1-0 lead to work with.
It didn’t last long as Colon got into trouble to start off the fourth, giving up consecutive singles to Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus to lead things off. He only needed seven pitches to retire the next two Blue Jays, but Lind came home on a ground ball up the middle by Brett Lawrie, which also moved Rasmus to third.
After a four-pitch walk to Jose Reyes, Colon threw an inside fastball on his first pitch to Maicer Izturis, and the ball bounced off the glove of Stephen Vogt to allow Rasmus to score, giving Toronto a 2-1 lead.
The A’s tried to match the Blue Jays’ effort in their turn at the plate as Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson each got aboard with singles, and a fielding error by Izturis off a hit by Seth Smith loaded the bases with no outs. Dickey got the next three batters to pop out, however, and the inning ended quietly after a promising rally.
The A’s would tie it up in the bottom of the fifth on another couple of errors by Toronto. Sogard popped a ball up in the infield in the first at-bat, but Dickey tripped in an effort to make the catch, allowing him to reach first. Sogard advanced to second on a groundout by Lowrie, and a Yoenis Cespedes strikeout left little hope for the A’s plating a run.
When Brandon Moss popped up the first pitch he saw to second, it looked like the inning was over, but the ball bounced right out of the glove of Izturis, and Sogard raced home to make it 2-2 on the Blue Jays’ fourth error of the day.
Oakland put two men on with one out in the eighth, but a pitching change put an end to the rally as Steven Delabar came in and struck out Vogt and Chris Young.
An uneventful ninth inning led to the debacle in extra innings. Chavez gave up a single to Reyes to start things off in the 10th. That was followed by another pitch going by Vogt with Izturis batting, which moved Reyes over to second, and Bautista drove him in on a double down the right field line to give Toronto a 3-2 lead.
Next, Chavez intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion and was pulled in favor of Jerry Blevins, who has struggled a bit over the last month. The struggles continued today as the left-hander walked pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa to load the bases, and Rasmus drove in his third and fourth RBIs of the series when he hit a single through the right side of the infield to make it 5-2.
Pat Neshek came in to get the final two outs, but the Blue Jays were pretty much out of reach at that point, and Cecil closed it out for Toronto.
New acquisition Alberto Callaspo went 0-for-2 as a pinch hitter, flying out in the seventh and striking out in the ninth in his first game as an Athletic. He was brought in for Sogard at second, and it’ll be interesting to see if Melvin starts him in the upcoming series against Texas, a team he should be plenty familiar with after spending the last three-and-a-half seasons with the Angels.
Oakland is off Thursday before hosting the Rangers over the weekend, and Tommy Milone is set to start Friday in the series opener against Alexi Ogando.