OAKLAND -- Prepared to protest Thursday’s game because of a controversial call, the A’s made the point moot by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 in the opener of a four-game series.
Sonny Gray turned in a rebound effort on the mound, throwing seven innings of one-run ball and outdueling knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
The A’s fell behind 1-0 in the top of the second on an odd play that resulted in a lengthy replay review and Oakland manager Bob Melvin deciding to play the game under protest in the event his team lost. More on that play below.
Most importantly for the A’s, they got back in the win column after being swept in Detroit to end an eight-game road trip. They also got off to a good start against the team a team that swept them up in Toronto back in May.
Starting pitching report
Gray (8-3) entered the night with a 5.50 ERA over his previous six outings. And though Melvin hasn’t expressed concern over his right-hander, it was still encouraging for Gray and the A’s that he pitched the way he did.
He allowed just the one run in the second and limited the Blue Jays to four hits over seven innings. He walked three, struck out five, and was especially effective snapping off a sharp curve that had Toronto hitters swinging at pitches in the dirt.
Sean Doolittle, who had blown saves in his previous two appearances, responded with two strikeouts in a three-up, three-down ninth to close it out. Dan Otero handled the eighth inning.
At the plate
Nate Freiman had an RBI double and Stephen Vogt scored on a passed ball as the A’s went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the second.
They added on in the eighth, as Craig Gentry singled and scored on John Jaso’s double. Then Alberto Callaspo added a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead.
In the field
With the bases loaded and one out in the second, A’s first baseman Nate Freiman fielded a grounder and appeared to tag Blue Jays runner Munenori Kawasaki between first and second base. But first base umpire Vic Carapazza signaled safe on the play, and Freiman threw to catcher Stephen Vogt for what should have been a force play at home.
Toronto manager John Gibbons asked for a replay review, and it was ruled that Kawasaki was indeed tagged out, therefore the “force” was off at home and Edwin Encarnacion scored because Vogt did not tag him.
That touched off an argument from Melvin, who would seem to have a legitimate case: Why should Vogt have thought to tag the runner when he saw Carapazza signal “safe” on Kawasaki, which would leave the force play at home still intact?
Melvin decided to protest, but it didn’t matter as the A’s emerged victorious.
But that wasn’t the only defensive play worth talking about. The Blue Jays had a runner on in the top of the eighth and trailed just 2-1 when Jose Reyes lined a ball to right field. Brandon Moss made a nice catch on the ball, then spun and fired a strong throw to first, where Freiman retrieved the ball and made a diving tag on Josh Thole to double him off and help Otero navigate the inning.
A crowd of 32,913 showed up, and we’re guessing there were 32,913 confused people as that second-inning “protest” play unfolded.
It’s a 1:05 p.m. start Friday for the Fourth of July. Tommy Milone (6-3, 3.79) will oppose Marcus Stroman (4-2, 4.01) on the mound.