TORONTO – During the A’s recent run of success, they’ve had excellent pitching and minimal offense.
On Friday in Toronto, Oakland got plenty in the way of hits, but the Blue Jays kept chipping away and chipping way, pulling within a run with a two-out rally in the eighth. Then Khris Davis, for the third night in a row, made a major contribution, this time with a two-run double in the ninth to give the A’s an 8-5 victory over the defending AL East champs.
Oakland remained undefeated in seven road games, the team’s best start away from home since going 8-0 in 1990, and the A’s extended their overall winning streak to six while ending a six-game losing streak at Rogers Center.
After scoring just 29 runs over their first 11 games, the A’s have picked up the pace, with 31 runs in the past six; they collected a season-high 14 hits Friday along with their season high in runs, and they’re batting .280 during their winning streak.
Gray (3-1) was sensational through the first five innings, allowing only a homer by Darwin Barney while striking out seven. He found himself in a picked in the sixth, though, when the Blue Jays loaded the bases with no outs. Jose Bautista hit a sacrifice fly – and Gray, somehow, someway, held Toronto there though he walked three in the inning. He got a flyball from Edwin Encarnacion and a groundout by Josh Thole. The next inning, he gave up another run; Kevin Pillar singled, went to second on a flyball and scored on a base hit by Barney.
It was the first time in six games that Oakland’s pitchers had allowed more than two earned runs, and in the eighth, the bullpen also stumbled a bit; Ryan Dull walked a batter (his first of the season) and gave up a two-out single to Justin Smoak after an 11-pitch at-bat. Sean Doolittle took over, walked Thole and gave up a two-run single to Pillar – the first time all year any A’s reliever had allowed inherited runners to score. The bullpen had stranded all previous 28 runners entering the day.
Ryan Madson earned the save, his seventh in seven attempts.
Oakland didn’t maximize all its scoring chances Friday and still pushed half a dozen across. In the first, Chris Coghlan was hit on the top of his right foot by a pitch from Aaron Sanchez and though he hobbled around a bit, he remained in, and the next batter, Josh Reddick, got a base hit. With two outs, Stephen Vogt clipped a double off the first-base bag and down the line, scoring Coghlan but third-base coach Ron Washington held Reddick at third when it appeared he had a good shot to score. Reddick was stranded when Coco Crisp hit a sharp grounder up the middle that Ryan Goins made a nice play on.
The next inning, the A’s got consecutive hits from Davis, Yonder Alonso and Marcus Semien, but this time Washington gambled the other way and wasn’t successful; he sent Davis home on Semien’s single and Davis was thrown out by Ezequiel Carrera.
Billy Burns followed with a grounder to shortstop; Semien was forced at second, but Burns raced to first and beat out the throw there, preventing an inning-ending double play and bringing up Coghlan. His three-run opposite-field blast, his second homer in as many nights, put Oakland up 4-0.
The A’s kept swinging the bats. They led the bases loaded in the third inning – Bob Melvin earned the first of his two challenge wins contenting the out call on a force on Crisp at second base – and they scored twice more in the fifth. Jed Lowrie led off with a single, Vogt delivered his third hit and Lowrie scored on a wild pitch, Vogt on a double by Crisp.
With cleanup man Danny Valencia on the DL with a hamstring strain, Melvin has had Lowrie batting four the past two games. He likes the fact that the switch-hitting Lowrie breaks up the left-handed batters in the middle, and, Melvin said, “He’s a chameleon. He can hit anywhere.”