Never a dull moment: Blue Jays claim uneasy victory against Athletics

Never a dull moment: Blue Jays claim uneasy victory against Athletics

OAKLAND, Calif. – Nothing has come easy for the Toronto Blue Jays this season so, really, why would this stretch against baseball’s bottom-dwellers be any different? Even with the disparity in records and gap in talent between them and their opponents, winning under the pressure that comes with September stakes is hard, a task made all the more difficult by the injuries to Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman, Danny Jansen and Erik Swanson. The Buffalo brigade has provided some admirable work in covering their absences, but their presence only reinforces the reality that everything for this team is going to be hard from here on out.

“We touched on it when Bo and Chappy went down and I said it’s going to get weird and it’s going to get ugly, dirty, grimy, grindy. You have to embrace it and I think the guys are doing that,” manager John Schneider said Monday morning ahead of his team’s Labour Day opener at the Oakland Athletics. “This is just another example – you can’t just say, ‘OK, these are three wins locked up because of what their record is.’ You have to be focused. You have to have energy. You have to have intent with everything that you’re doing. And with the guys that are up and the magnitude of every game, I think it lines up pretty well.”

All of that came into focus in the three hours that followed, as the Blue Jays built a three-run lead in the fifth, gave it back on solo shots in the three consecutive innings that followed and then scored three times in the 10th, just enough to pull out an uneasy 6-5 victory.

Pinch-hitter Santiago Espinal triggered the decisive rally by ripping Francisco Perez’s first pitch of the frame into the left-field corner for an RBI double, Cavan Biggio added an RBI single and Spencer Horwitz ripped another run-scoring double, with a second run called back because the ball got stuck beneath the right-field fence.

Jordan Romano, who recorded two outs in the ninth, gave up a two-run shot to Lawrence Butler to open the bottom half but then settled to lock things down before a crowd of 9,062 at Oakland Coliseum, ensuring the Blue Jays (76-62) would gain ground on either the Texas Rangers (76-60) or Houston Astros (77-61), who were playing one another.

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Never a dull moment.

The Blue Jays, baffled through the first four frames by Luis Medina, activated off the injured list to start in place of Ken Waldichuk, appeared to take control of the game in the fifth when they loaded the bases with none out, opened the scoring on Kevin Kiermaier’s double play ball, and then tacked on two more on George Springer’s RBI double and Biggio’s run-scoring single.

But Jose Berrios, turning the page on a run of three rough starts in four outings with six strong innings, gave up a solo shot to Butler, who timed up a decently placed slurve perfectly, in the bottom of the frame and then another in the sixth, when Ryan Noda hammered a fat changeup.

That was all the damage against the ace righty, who struck out seven and walked one, but in the seventh, Jordan Diaz took Yimi Garcia deep to knot things up.

The Blue Jays tried to respond in the eighth but a two-on, one-out rally went for naught when Spencer Horwitz, starting again with Brandon Belt isolated at the team hotel due to a stomach virus, lined out to short and Whit Merrifield struck out.

They then walked the tightrope on the mound to get the game to extra innings, Genesis Cabrera coming on in the eighth to get Noda and strand the go-ahead run at third and Romano taking over with one on and one out in the ninth and escaping damage as pinch-runner Esteury Ruiz stole two bags but was left stranded.

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