A’s edge Blue Jays 5-4; Laureano homers again; Jay’s Semien makes first appearance at Coliseum

Oakland A’s left fielder and later second baseman Tony Kemp seen during batting practice at the Oakland Coliseum contributed with a run scored and a walk on Mon May 3, 2021 against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays (@Athletics photo)

Toronto 4 – 9 – 0

Oakland 5 – 9 – 0

By Lewis Rubman

May 3, 2021

OAKLAND–On Sunday, the A’s announced that they had put Jesús Luzardo on the Injured List for a fracture of the little finger on his pitching hand and recalled Adam Kolarek from their alternate site. Luzardo’s record was a disappointing 1-3, 5.79 over 28 innings, with 30 strikeouts and 12 walks. He had three no decisions, and opposing batters hit a shudder inducing .289 against him. How did the A’s promising and struggling youngster injure his hand? Apparently, he bumped his pinkie against the desk at which he was sitting while playing a video game before his last, disastrous outing.

Oakland also placed J.B. Wendelken on the IL. The cause was a strained left oblique muscle; they chose Jordan Weems to take his spot on the roster. Wendelken was leading the league in pitching appearances with 15 at the time of the move. Although he was 0-0, 4.38, with an and an opponents’ batting average of .283, his season’s statistics are misleading. Over his first 13 games, his ERA had been 2.61, and opposing batters had hit for only .220 against him, which makes it likely that his bloated numbers were the result of the injury.

Luzardo’s self-inflicted injury was unusual, but the A’s in recent years haven’t been strangers to injuries, including serious ones that have hurt the team. A quick glance at their Injured Lists over the last few years shows, among others, Khris Davis, who never recovered from running into a wall while playing left field in an interleague game; A.J. Puk, who, along with Luzardo, has for the past few years been seen as a future ace; Chad Pinder, a top notch utility man who still is recovering from a strained right knee; and Matt Chapman, who recently began to overcome the damage caused by a torn hip labrum and his attempts to play through the pain it caused him.

Not to mention Matt Olson, whose black eye didn’t put him on the IL, but did keep him out of action until his marvelous return yesterday, when he went three for five, including a double and a homer and bringing his OPS to 1.003.

Frankie Montás, who started for Oakland, has experienced the consequences of self-destructive, or at least careless, behavior. Last year, he spent June 21 through September 24 on the restricted list for violations of MLB’s drug protocol.

Luzardo is only 23 years old. He’s young. Montás is 28, still young but old enough to be entering his prime. His opponent on the mound for Toronto, Steve Matz, is just one year older and already is a seasoned, if not a particularly accomplished veteran.

He has a more responsible off field record than Luzardo or Montás, but that hasn’t prevented him from suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. A second round pick in the 2009 draft, he was unable to pitch the following two seasons, thanks to Tommy John surgery, and he’s been on the disabled or injured lists seven times with different types of arm trouble since the beginning of his professional career in 2012.. He pitched for the Mets from 2015 through the end of last season, during which time his ERA was below 4.00 only twice, 2.27 over 36-2/3 innings in ’15 and 3.97 during his 5-11 2018 season.

Last year he went 0-5, 9.68 in 30-2 /3 innings of arduous labor. The Mets thought enough of him in 2015 to have him start one game each of the NLDS, NLCS, and World Series in his rookie year. He performed well in two of the three starts (the Championship and World Series), but didn’t last more than five innings in any of them. He was the Mets’ choice for the Roberto Clemente Award three times, most recently last year. He came to the Jays this past January in exchange for three right handed pitchers, Yennsy Díaz, Sean Reid-Foley, and Josh Winckowski.

Tonight’s contest afforded us a chance to see the resurgent Matts try to put Matz to the mat (and vice versa). That is, with a little help from their friends.

Those friends of Matz included a couple of Bay Area favorites. Marcus Semien played … second base, and Joe Panik played … third. (The former A’s short stop received a warm ovation when he first came to the plate). Playing out of position, the two infielders are a microcosm of the Toronto team, which played its 2020 h0me games in Buffalo and this year will play them, at least through late this month, in their spring training facility in Dundin, FL.

It was Matt Chapman who first reached scoring position for either team. He took a 2-2 sinker from Matz in the bottom of the second frame and drove it on a line into the left field corner for a double. Moments later he scored on Jed Lowries’ double off the fence in right field, just to the right of the Southwest Airlines purple advertisement. Stephen Piscotty, up next, made it 3-0 with his third home run of the season, a 391 foot blast to left on an 85 mph change up.

The A’s advantage was short lived. Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., led off the third with a single to left and was forced out at second on a ground ball by Danny Jensen that, if Lowrie hadn’t bobbled it, would have resulted in a double play. In short order, BoBiggio singled to left, moving Jansen up a base; Vlad Guerrero, Jr., singled to right, loading the bases because Jansen held up at third when Piscotty unleased a strong throw home; and Teoscar Hernández doubled to left, driving in Biggio and Bichette. Montás retired Randal Grichuk and his old teammate Semien to escape further damage.

Oakland almost took back the lead in the fourth. With Lowrie on first and one out, Piscotty hit a drive that landed at the base of the right field wall. Lowrie motored to third, but Piscotty was cut down at second on a beautiful throw by Biggio to Bichette. Then Elvis Andrus hit a nubber in front of the plate, and catcher Jansen’s throw to first hit him in the back. But home plate umpire Bill Miller ruled that Andrus had been running out of the lane and called him out to end the inning.

The Athletics were not to be denied in the fifth. Tony Kemp began it with a walk and advanced to second on Canha’s grounder to third. Then Laureano, like Piscotty before him, took a mid-80s change up deep, driving this one 432 feet to left center and putting Oakland up, 5-3.

That was the last inning that Matz would pitch. In his six innings of toil, he surrended five runs, all of them earned. He gave up seven hits, including four round trippers, and a walk as well as hitting one batter. He threw 92 pitches, 62 for strikes. His succesor in the sixth was Travis Bergen.

After Bergen had retired the A’s in the sixth, Sergio Romo relieved Montás, who, with three runs in six innings had achieved what is considered a quality start. Those three talllies, all earned, had come on seven hits and a walk. 62 of his 88 pitches were counted as strkes. His replacement, Sergio Ramos, set the Jays down. 1,2,3, with two strike outs.

Toronto used their third straight southpaw hurler when they brought Tim Mayza to face Matt Olson with Laureano on first and two down in the bottom of the seventh.

Lou Trivino was Bob Melvin’s choice to face the Blue Jays in the eighth. Guerrero greeted him rudely with a lead off double to right. One strike out later, Grichuk moved him to third on a broken bat single to right. Then, on a 2-2 count to Semien, Trivino uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Guerrero to score and Grichuk to get to second.

All of a sudden, it was a one run game with a dangerous batter at the plate and a runner in scoring position. But Trivino got Semien to swing and miss on a 96 mph four seam fast ball for the second out, and Panik flew out to center, which preserved the home team’s razor thin margin.

Jake Diekman was called on to continue preserving it in the ninth. He did, earning his third save in as many opportunities.

Montás was the winning pitcher. He’s now 3-2, 5.87. Matz was tagged with the loss. His record stands at 4-2, 4.78)

Tomorrow’s 6:40 game will feature Cole Irvin (2-3, 3.67) pitching for Oakland and Anthony Kay (0-1,10.80) on the mound for Toronto,

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