Again they fought back.
Rajai Davis got reacquainted with his former team last night and turned it into a sweet reunion. He sparked the four-run sixth with a lead-off double.
Trailing again in the 10th, he dribbled a single up the middle. One pitch later, Escobar slashed a homer over the fence in right, sending the fans into an uproar and the Jays rushing to the plate for a celebration.
Davis said before the game he was impressed with his former club. “It’s kind of amazing what they were able to do in the off-season, getting (David) DeJesus, getting (Coco) Crisp back, and add some bullpen arms. On paper the lineup looks pretty good — but you can’t play the game on paper.”
Last night he proved his point well.
Five Toronto relievers, Carlos Viullanueva, David Purcey, Shawn Camp and Jon Rauch, combined for 52/3 innings of two-hit, scoreless relief before Willingham dinged Jason Frasor to open the 10th and put the A’s in front 6-5.
The A’s had opened a 5-0 lead against starter
It didn’t look good when A’s starter Brandon McCarthy faced the minimum 10 hitters before allowing a run in the fourth. And he hung around, scattering seven hits through eight innings. He gave up only two earned runs. Normally that should be good enough to win.
But the A’s have had a habit of imploding. Errors cost them two games against Seattle and Toronto came all the way back to tie it with four runs in the sixth — three of them unearned.
Kevin Kouzmanoff had Yunel Escobar’s chopper go off his glove. Shortstop Andy LaRoche caught a foul popup but fell behind third, allowing Davis to score. A botched pickoff and a throwing error by Kouzmanoff on a Juan Rivera grounder helped Aaron Hill to score. Somewhere in there Edwin Encarnacion doubled and when Travis Snider hit a groundout to second Rivera scored and the Jays had come all the way back to 5-5.
After an outstanding spring that earned him a slot in the rotation, the night was a major letdown for Reyes.
A history of control problems plagued his development the past four seasons with Atlanta but a 3.52 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 23 spring innings appeared to have revived his career. It earned him his first major league start since 2009.
He hadn’t won a start since June 2008.
And, he didn’t come close this time either. The A’s sent singles scorching the turf and doubles pinging off walls; nine hits in 31/3 innings that opened a 5-0 lead.
Well, actually he did come close. It just didn’t feel that way. Sometimes a game can hinge on a pitch made — or in Reyes’ case, not made.
It seemed he might escape unhurt when he got two outs after Andy LaRoche leadoff double in the third. He was just a pitch away from a stroll back to the dugout before Conor Jackson lined a double to ruin his night.
A’s were up 1-0.
Reyes had two strikes on Willingham. And lost him on a single. That pretty much summed up his night. Before the inning was over Oakland had three runs and five hits. They got two more the next inning and it was bye-bye, Jo-Jo.
So close. But no joy. And, while no decision has been made on what happens when Brandon Morrow comes back, it doesn’t help Reyes’ chances of staying in the rotation.
Missing in action
Toronto will be without Jose Bautista for the series against the A’s. A report out of the Dominican Republic said his absence was due to the birth of his daughter, Estela Marie.
“We do expect him to rejoin the club when we open (a trip Friday) in L.A.,” said Jays manager John Farrell.
If there is a series which Bautista has to miss, this might be the best one. Oakland was the one club that had his number last year. The outfielder hit just .115 with one homer in seven meetings against the A’s, his worst performance against any American League opponent.
Bautista’s absence necesitated a lineup shuffle that had Juan Rivera, normally the designated hitter, in right field. Adam Lind moved up from fourth to Bautista’s third spot in the lineup and Hill was batting cleanup.
With three errors in the opening season series, Encarnacion was not at third Tuesday. But, don’t read anything into it, said manager Jim Farrell.
It was mostly part of the fallout of not having Bautista. “It gives (Jayson) Nix a chance to get in the lineup (at third base) ... and still keep Edwin (who was at DH) and Juan (Rivera’s) bat in the lineup (in right field).
“It’s no reflection of abilities. We expect Edwin to have a big year offensively.” And then Encarnacion hit into an inning-ending double play after Rivera’s second-inning walk, just to show that you can’t (insert heavy sigh!) win ’em all.
Then he slashed a hard RBI double in the sixth in a big rally. With Edwin, “there’s more positives than not,” said Farrell. The crowd said: Amen.
Hill had some flashy defence in the third inning with a dive to pull Coco Crisp’s bid for a single from going to centre and throwing him out ... Left fielder Travis Snider had Mark Ellis nailed trying to stretch out a double that inning, but Hill bobbled the ball as he applied the tag ... Lind’s diving catch robbed Mark Ellis of an RBI single in the fourth ... And, if it isn’t for Carlos Villanueva’s 21/3 innings of hitless relief of Reyes maybe the Jays never do come back to tie this thing in the sixth.