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Kikuchi wild, Jays outhit A’s 10-4 but fall 5-3

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays 3 at Athletics 5

At least, like last night, it went and was over pretty quickly. Small mercies like that are accentuating when your baseball team is in the midst of a stretch like the Jays are.

If the goal of pitching was to put the ball in the six inches surrounding the strike zone, it would have been a very different and perhaps even fruitful outing for Yusei Kikuchi. As it was, he spent most of his short start spraying pitches anywhere but the strike zone, walking five and hitting a pair of batters for a grand total of seven free passes. Incidentally, that matched the number of outs he recorded before getting the hook after 2.1 innings.

It went that way from the get go, as Kikuchi walked the first two batters of the game. A ground ball single made it 1-0 three batters with another batter 90 feet away, into the game, though Kikuchi rebounded to get a pair of ground balls (the former a run scoring GIDP). Kikuchi started the second again with a walk, gor another double play ball only to issue another walk for good measure.

To his credit, Kikuchi did not start the third with a walk. Instead, high school sophomore Nick Allen fisted a single to right, and then the wildness manifested as Kikuchi drilled Ramon Laureano and Christian Bethancourt back-to-back in the back to load the bases with none out. A well struck sac fly put the A’s back on top 3-2, but Kikuchi couldn’t bear an open base so promptly walked Stephen Piscotty to reload the bases. Also ending his night.

Trent Thornton was first in, and except for walking Chad Pinder on four pitches to force in another run did a very nice job; his slider was particular sharp with late finish. Sandwiching out around that walk, he got out of the 4th with limited damage, worked a clean 4th, and got the first two batters of the 5th to put himself on the cusp of recording more outs than Kikuchi. Until he challenged Piscotty with a 3-2 fastball over the heart of the plate that was absolutely demolished for the 5th run.

The bullpen did keep the A’s off the scoresheet and maintain the illusion of the Jays having a chance. David Phelps got all four batters he faced to get through the 6th, Trevor Richard worked around a pair of walks in the 7th, and Tim Mayza faced the minimum in the 8th thanks to George Springer throwing out Pinder trying to take an extra base.

In total, the Jays issued 10 free passes (in eight innings). On the flip side, Oakland issued...none. Just like last night. And just like last night, they won, despite getting getting significantly outhit 10-4. Funny how that works.

Oakland had Adrian Martinez making his second major league start, and for the most part he kept the Jays off balance with his offspeed pitches. After falling down 2-0 (see supra), the Jays struck back quickly in the 2nd as a Cavan Biggio lined single broke the goose egg in the hits column, setting up matt chaoman to tie the game with a monster shot just left of centre.

Martinez started leaning heavily on his change-up to great effect, cutting though the Jays order. Until Teoscar Hernandez came up in the 4th and crushed another moonshot to centre. It’s a testament to Teoscar’s power that it didn’t even look like a monster hack (I didn’t even think he got all of it/launched it, though he knew right away).

Up to this point, the Jays had three runs on three hits, so they were actually very opportunistic in getting runs on the board despite limited production. Alas, the script then flipped for the rest of the night. Seven more hits, zero more runs (starting with Chapman and Raimel Tapia singling with two out only to be stranded).

The Jays squandered a golden opportunity that would prove their best of the night in the 6th inning as Windmill Rivera struck again. After Alejandro Kirk and Teoscar led off with back-to-back singles, Martinez was done and Mark Kotsay went to the pen for lefty A.J. Puk. Montoyo countered by bringing in Vladimir Guerrero off the bench for Biggio. He took a big swing but flew out on a first pitch slider.

Chapman followed by with yet another hit, his third of the game, knocking a line drive with some hang into the outfield, but that was (easily) cutoff. Nonetheless, Luis Rivera waved Kirk around third, the thrpw beating him by a mile (well, 15 feet, but there are probably some people ont he planet who could run a mile in less time). The only humourous part was Kirk unable to put the brakes on his momentum and his inertia taking him awkwardly but inevitably into catcher Sean Murphy.

It was an ill-advised send considering the runner, the situation, and the Jays finding stringing together some hits, and the balloon popped after that. The next nine batters went in order until Tapia beat out an infield single with two out in the 9th, forestalling the end for a couple pitches.

Jays of the Day: Teoscar (+0.165) and Chapman (+0.124).

Suckage: Kikuchi (-0.340), Espinal (-0.127), and Vladdy (-0.114). Moreno (-0.075), Bichette (-0.072) and Springer (-0.071) were all close too, and with that many bats sprinkled throughout significantly negative, you can see why the Jays couldn’t sustain any momentum.

Tomorrow, the Jays will look to salvage a game and stave off the series sweep in a getaway matinee affair on the West Coast and late afternoon start for the East Coast. Jose Berrios faces off at 3:35 EDT against James Kaprelian in a matchup of righties with ugly ERAs above 5.00. In numerous ways, the Jays are in desperate need for Berrios to step up with a deep(er), quality outing.