Leave it to Josh Donaldson to come through in the clutch and make sure the Jays aren't swept. As it looked like another early lead might slip away from Jays as the bats went silent in the second half of the game, Donaldson ensured that wouldn't happen by driving in the winning runs with two out double in the top of the 9th inning.
J.A. Happ was phenomenal to start the game, perfect for the first 3 innings the first turn through the order, dominating with his fastball and piling strikeouts and weak contact. The Athletics finally got to him a little bit in the 4th inning, with a couple line drive singles sandwiches around swinging strikeouts, but he got a weak groundout to quell the threat.
So entering the 5th, Happ was cruising with a 3-0 lead and it looked like it was only a matter of how deep he was going to go, after a leadoff popout that had him almost halfway through under 50 pitches. Unfortunately, Jake Smolinski lined a first pitch fastball right back at Happ and it struck his forearm. After being examined, he stayed in the game, as the damage appeared to limited to a nasty bruise that quickly appeared. And he got out of the inning just fine, with a groundout and flyout.
Happ came back out for the 6th, but wasn't the same pitcher. He got a leadoff flyout, but then gave up a solo shot to Marcus Seimen to break the shutout. He got the second out on another lineout back to him, then a line drive single to olf friend Danny Valencia, before walking Khris Davis. That was the end of his afternoon, and Jesse Chavez came in to face his old team and try to end the threat.
Instead, he allowed a hard double to left to cash the runners and tie the game 3-3. And then hit a batter. And then an infield single, and the Blue Jays were suddenly facing deep trouble. Chavez wriggled out of it with a popup in the middle of the infield, but even that was almost a disaster as the four infielders converged, and Donaldson had to bail out to avoid colliding with Smoak (see image above).
Meanwhile, the Athletics were behind the right ball from the start, as Rich Hill left the game before the first batter was out, with a popped blister on his pitching hand. Andrew Triggs replaced him, giving up a run as Donaldson singled and Edwin Encarnacion hit a line drive to centre field that was misplayed, allowing Donaldson to score.
Sean Manaea replaced Triggs for the second inning, and did a pretty good job shutting down the Blue Jay bats over the next 5 innings. The exception was the 4th inning, when Russell Martin lead off with a line drive to right-centre that went to the wall. Two batters later, Troy Tulowitzki hit his 16th home run of the year to bring Martin home, and stake the Jays to the 3-0 lead.
That was all of the offensive production for a long time. After Manaea departed, Oakland went to another old friend, Marc Rzepczynski, who was greeted by a beautiful bunt single from Kevin Pillar and a Smoak single and the Jays had a golden opportunity to push across the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, Junior Lake and Devon Travis struck out, and then another old friend Liam Hendriks got Donaldson to pop out.
Fortunately, the bullpen behind Chavez was equal to the task. Brett Cecil faced the minimum in the 7th, erasing a leadoff single on a double play sandwiched around a strikeout. Jason Grilli has a clean 8th with 2 strikeouts.
John Axford came in for the 9th to face the Jays, got Pillar and sawed off Smoak the other way, but the infield was shifted so there was no one to field it. Lake singled, but Travis struck out to put Oakland one out away. But that out was the reigning MVP, and he put the Jays ahead. Roberto Osuna worked a quick and easy 9th, and the Jays staved off the sweep.
Jays of the Day: Donaldson (+0.380 WPA), Happ (+0.165), Smoak (+0.127, 2/4), Grilli (+0.101). Let's give Martin (+0.0.65) one too for the 2/3 with a walk.
Suckage: Chavez (-0.268), Travis (-0.223, 0/5, 2K)
Tomorrow, the Jays are off, and Tuesday will take on Arizona with Aaron Sanchez scheduled to Zack Godley starting at 9:40 eastern.