Jays lose hot batters, fall to A's

Toronto Blue Jays baserunner Eric Thames, right, slides safe into home beside Oakland Athletics...

Toronto Blue Jays baserunner Eric Thames, right, slides safe into home beside Oakland Athletics catcher Landon Powell during the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Oakland, California August 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:50 AM ET

OAKLAND – The Blue Jays lost a ball game Saturday night but that was the least of their concerns.

The Oakland Athletics, on the strength of an unearned run in the fourth inning, nipped the Jays 5-1 behind the four-hit pitching of Gio Gonzalez, but the main concern for Toronto was the health of its two top run producers, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind.

Just moments after it was announced that Bautista was a late scratch because of neck tightness, designated hitter Lind was hit on the right wrist by a pitch from Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez in the first inning.

He stayed in the game and ran for himself in that inning, but when his turn in the order came up in the third, Mark Teahen pinch hit for him while he went to have his wrist assessed.

“Jose experienced the stiffness in the left side of his neck, similar to what he had earlier in the year. He felt it during batting practice and we weren’t going to push it, knowing that he missed five days the last time,”

Jays manager John Farrell said.

“He received treatment throughout the game. We’ll see (Sunday) if he’s ready to go.

After the game, Lind was still at a local hospital awaiting an X-ray on his wrist.

“There’s been no X-ray administered, so we don’t have an update on whether there’s any structural damage or not,” Farrell said.

If neither Bautista, with 79 RBI, nor Lind, with 72 RBI, is available for Sunday’s series finale, it would mark the first time this season that at least one of those two offensive stars has not been in the lineup all season.

“When Jose has to come out late and then we lose Adam in the first at-bat, sure, it’s a big blow,” Farrell said.

Those injuries overshadowed a strong third outing by 21-year-old starter Henderson Alvarez, who gave up seven hits, a walk and just one earned run over six innings in just his third major-league start.

“He did a very good job,” Farrell said. “Even when he got men on, just the same as the other two outings, he doesn’t panic. The game doesn’t speed up on him, he continues to make pitch after pitch.”

He was outduelled by Gonzalez, who gave up just four singles - two by Eric Thames - and didn’t walk a batter. Last week in Toronto, Gonzalez walked five Jays in four innings.

Edwin Encarnacion gave the Jays a brief 1-0 lead in the top of the first, scoring Thames from second base. Later in that same half-inning, the Jays loaded the bases but Brett Lawrie popped up to the first baseman in foul ground to end the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, the A’s combined a Cliff Pennington double, a Coco Crisp single and a Hideki Matsui single to tie the score but Alvarez got the next two outs to quell the uprising.

Oakland took a 2-1 lead in the fourth, scoring an unearned run on a leadoff single, an error to second baseman John McDonald and then a double-play ball off the bat of David DeJesus that scored Brandon Allen.

Alvarez got into another jam in the sixth, with runners at first and second but got out of the inning on a groundball, with help from a flashy play by shortstop Escobar, who scooped the ball backwards to McDonald to get the force at second.

Oakland scored again off reliever Jesse Litsch in the eighth and then Josh Willigham’s pinch-hit two-run homer finished it off.

“We had one opportunity in the first inning and then didn’t get anything else going until the eighth but couldn’t come through with a two-out hit,” Farrell said.

Rewarding Success

It’s a time of the baseball season where depth charts get adjusted along with player evaluations, not just at the big league level.

Two days before his 21st birthday, righthanded pitcher Drew Hutchison has earned his second promotion of the year. He earlier outgrew Lansing and has now been sent from Dunedin to New Hampshire as he rockets through the minors.

In 134 innings at Lansing and Dunedin he has fanned 150 hitters while walking just 33. He takes a 2.68 ERA with him to New Hampshire for the final several weeks (and playoffs).”

He joins his former Dunedin teammate Nestor Molina, who was promoted a few days ago and has, in two starts (both wins), accumulated 11 innings with 17 strikeouts and one walk to go with an 0.82 ERA

“(Hutchison) is a good-looking young pitcher,” said Jays manager John Farrell. “And when you describe a pitcher, you start with their fastball command. That’s such an imperative element as they advance from level to level through the system. He does a very good job of that.”

On the flipside of all that late-season optimism is the troubling story of Kyle Drabek.

In 14 starts since his demotion from the majors to Las Vegas, he has failed miserably to regain his mojo. He is 4-5 with a 7.10 ERA. In 58 innings, he has given up 87 hits and 34 walks for a WHIP of 2.09. Opponents are hitting .360 against him.

“Certainly things didn’t progress as he would have expected, as we would have expected,” said Farrell.

There is every reason to believe that Drabek’s talent will eventually win over that imposter who has invaded his body and mind but it’s a lesson in humility that any young ballplayer should heed.


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