OAKLAND, Calif. – The Toronto Blue Jays already have a lengthy list of lamentable losses this season and Wednesday night’s 4-3, 10-inning setback to the Oakland Athletics is right near the top in terms of frustrating games to have slipped away from them.
They battled all-star Sonny Gray hard but only managed a pair off him, didn’t get enough zeroes or innings from Felix Doubront to compensate, squandered a chance to put the game away with the bases loaded and none out in the ninth, and then lost in extras when replays on the decisive play weren’t conclusive enough to overturn a safe call on the field.
“When you come and look at it on replay, everyone in this clubhouse feels like he was out. Unfortunately it didn’t get overturned,” said Danny Valencia, adding later: “It’s frustrating. I felt like the whole game we were pretty much in control of that game. It’s a tough loss.”
Down 3-2 in the ninth, the Blue Jays loaded the bases against Tyler Clippard but managed just one run, on a one-out walk to Jose Bautista, to tie the game up. They paid for not doing more damage in the 10th, as Josh Reddick hit a one-out double off Roberto Osuna, advanced to third on Brett Lawrie’s groundout and scored on Ike Davis’s infield single.
Jose Reyes made a nice play ranging to his right and making a strong throw to Valencia at first, but Marvin Hudson called Davis safe. That was critical, as the replay official couldn’t definitively determine that the ball reached the interior of Valencia’s glove before Davis hit the bag, so the play stood, as opposed to being confirmed.
“If he would have called him out and they would have replayed it, I felt that they would have said he was out,” said Valencia. “It was a bang-bang play, we’ve seen it all year, it’s got to be cut and dry for them to overturn it. If you look at it and break it down in this clubhouse like we have after this game, we all have it out in here.”
Said Davis: “It’s tough, especially with that one, you couldn’t tell on video if I was safe or out. At least I couldn’t.”
Added Reyes: “We understand a play that close, to overturn it is a little bit hard to do. But at the same time, you have to look at the situation of the game. We lost the game there. … When I saw the replay I thought we got him. But I’m not an umpire. I guess they have a better view than what we have.”
The Blue Jays now must beat Scott Kazmir on Thursday afternoon to win this series, and with Felix Hernandez looming Friday night in the series opener at Seattle, they’re at risk of falling into salvage mode real quick on this West Coast swing.
Drew Hutchison is ill and R.A. Dickey will start in his place in the finale.
“We’re going to jump on Knucksie’s back,” said manager John Gibbons.
The loss aside, there’s what to do with the fifth starter’s spot, as Doubront didn’t get rocked in this one, but it’s far from certain there’s more in him what he’s showing, either.
With Daniel Norris, the likeliest internal candidate to replace him, delivering another mediocre outing at triple-A Buffalo – two runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts over 5.1 innings – in front of general manager Alex Anthopoulos and assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, he’s not yet forcing the issue.
“It’s always one inning,” said Doubront. “I got in trouble and tried to get out of that inning but they did a good job, the relievers. It was tough. I was feeling good and throwing the ball well until that.”
Against the Athletics, the Blue Jays missed a few opportunities to force the issue, as they collected seven hits and a walk over the first four innings but managed just a single solitary run on Josh Donaldson’s RBI single in the third.
Gray got lucky when Jose Bautista, on the 11th pitch of the at-bat, crushed one to the wall in left-centre field under the 388 feet sign, a drive that’s an easy home run in Toronto.
Still, the most pivotal moment came in the fourth, as the Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out for Devon Travis, who lined out to Ben Zobrist at second base. Valencia, who had strayed too far off the bag, was then doubled off to end the threat.
Gibbons described it as “a killer inning.”
The Athletics tied things up in the bottom of the frame when Jake Smolinski reached via a Donaldson throwing error (on a ball Chris Colabello should have scooped at first) and scored on Josh Phegley’s two-out RBI single.
Doubront then failed to escape the fifth as Billy Burns reached on a one-out single, stole second and scored on Stephen Vogt’s base hit. Zobrist followed with a double that put men on second and third, Billy Butler was walked intentionally and Smolinski smoked a sacrifice fly to deep centre for a 3-1 lead.
The Blue Jays were lucky to avoid further damage as a Lawrie laser off Liam Hendriks went right to a leaping Travis at second to end the frame, but the damage was done. Valencia opened the seventh by rocking Gray’s first pitch over the wall in centre field to set the stage for the late game drama.
“It was frustrating, we left a lot of people on base,” said Reyes. “Sometimes you have to give credit to the pitcher, they did a good job tonight with people on base. It’s very tough to lose a game like that.”
Such losses are nothing new for the Blue Jays this year, even if this one featured some different twists. They’ve bounced back time and time again, but sooner or later, all the games that have slipped away may cumulatively become too much to overcome.