Blue Jays beat the A’s 5-3 in a strange game

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Oakland Athletics
Marcus Semien hits his 20th home run of the season. Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

By Charlie O. Mallonee

The Oakland Athletics lost the final game of the three-game series to the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 on Sunday afternoon, but the A’s still won the series two games to one.

The Sunday game had “weird” painted all over it right from the beginning. Rich Hill started the game for Oakland and the speculation was that it would be his final start as an Athletic because of his trade value. Hill threw five pitches and called the trainer to the mound. A piece of skin came off where he had a blister that caused him to miss a start, and that was it for Hill. His day was over.

The A’s would use seven pitchers in the game but the real surprise was the appearance of starting pitcher Sean Manaea in the second inning of the game. The rookie left-hander was scheduled to start the game on Tuesday versus the Astros. After it was determined that reliever Andrew Triggs could not continue after being hit in the calf with a batted ball, manager Bob Melvin called on Manaea.

Melvin talked about how tough it was to ask Manaea to respond so quickly. “It’s tough to ask the kid to do something like that too. We were going to limit his pitches but we just didn’t have enough bullpen wise to get through the game if we didn’t use him. He responded really well. I’m sure he didn’t come to the ballpark thinking I might pitch today.”

Manaea worked five innings giving up two runs (both earned) on three hits. He struck out four Blue Jay hitters. Manaea did give up a two-run home run to Troy Tulowitzki in the top of the fourth inning. Tulowitzki hit his 16th home run of the season over the center field wall. Manaea did not figure in on the decision in Sunday’s game.

The Tulowitzki home run gave Toronto a 3-0 lead. The Jays scored a run in the that wild and confusing top of the first inning.

The A’s were having to battle the strong pitching of J.A. Happ who entered the game with a 12-3 record. Happ held the A’s hitless through the first three innings.

The A’s broke through in the bottom of the sixth inning when they sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs on four hits to tie the game at 3-3. Marcus Semien started the scoring for the A’s by hitting his 20th home run of the year.

The game remained tied until the top of the ninth when the Blue Jays put runners on base by virtue of back-to-back base hits. With two outs, former Athletic Josh Donaldson stepped in and hit a double to left field that drove in two runs giving Toronto a 5-3 lead. The A’s were unable to respond in the bottom of the ninth and the final score was Toronto 5 Oakland 3.

On the bump

Rich Hill showed reporters his finger and the skin that had come off that finger. It does not look like an injury that is going to heal quickly. Bob Melvin was clear in postgame press conference that Hill was not a candidate to start on Tuesday against Houston.

Andrew Triggs who was hit by a ball on his left calf has a serious contusion. Melvin said they will evaluate Triggs situation again on Monday.

Marc Rzepczynski worked 0.2 of an inning and struck out two batters. Liam Hendricks pitched 1.1 innings and walked one hitter while giving up no runs in relief.

John Axford (3-3) took the loss going 0.2 innings giving up two runs (earned) on three hits. He walked two and struck out one.

Patrick Schuster worked 0.1 inning to close out the game.

Happ worked 5.2 innings giving up 3 runs (all earned) on five hits for Toronto. He struck out five and walked one. Happ did not figure in on the decision.

Jason Grilli (3-1) was credited with the win. Grilli worked 1.0 inning giving up no runs and no hits in his time on the mound.

The save went to Roberto Osuna. It is his 19th save of the season.

In the batter’s box

Marcus Semien went 1-for-4 with a run scored, a home run and a RBI. He now has 20 home runs and 48 RBI both of which are career highs.

Danny Valencia had a 2-for-4 day that included scoring a run. Valencia is now hitting .307 in the 56 games since he came off the disabled list May 6th. There have to be some contending teams that want his bat in their lineup and are willing to part with prospects to get it.

Jed Lowrie went 2-for-4 on Sunday. Lowrie is 6-for-16 (.375) in his four starts as the leadoff batter this season.

Yonder Alonso came into the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and went 1-for-2 hitting a double that was good for two RBI.

Josh Donaldson has reached base safely in 22 straight games and is hitting .388 over that period. He went 2-for-5 on Sunday.

Russell Martin went 2-for-3 on Sunday and scored a run. He is hitting .324 over the last 10 games.

Edwin Encarnacion had a 1-for-4 day but is .394 over his last 20 games.

Notes:

The Athletics were involved in a minor transaction on Sunday as they acquired left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler from the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. Detwiler was pitching for Triple-A Columbus and will be assigned to Triple-A Nashville for the A’s. He will not be on the 40-man roster.

This move was made to shore up the pitching staff in Nashville which has seen so many changes as pitchers have been promoted to Oakland and others have been designated for assignment.

Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak signed a two-year contract extension worth $8.25 million on Saturday. The contract includes an option year that would pay Smoak $6 million if exercised.

“We love Toronto, me and my family, and we wanted to stay here as long as we can,” Smoak said. “So we just wanted to get something done.”

Smoak is currently a role player for the Blue Jays. His signing is seen as protection at first base in case free agent Edwin Encarnacion signs elsewhere.

Up next

Three-game series in Oakland with Houston:

Mon – RHP Kendall Graveman (5-6,4.37) vs. RHP Mike Fiers (6-3,4.35) 7:05 PM

Tue – To be announced vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-9,4.90) 7:05 PM

Wed – RHP Daniel Mengden (1-4,5.54) vs. RHP Doug Fister (9-6,3.64) 12:35 PM

Toronto heads to Phoenix for two games with the Diamondbacks

A Pitcher in the Home Run Derby? Why Madison Bumgarner Should Have Been Considered

By Matthew Harrington

Monday night, the annual tradition of launching baseballs into the atmosphere like NASA satellites will commence once again, as the MLB’s greatest current sluggers converge at Target Field in Minnesota for the 2014 Home Run Derby, a rocket launch to the 2014 All-Star Game Festivities in the Twin Cities.

Sure, Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton and Yoenis Cespedes are going to put on a show, launch tape measure bombs and make Chris Berman yell “Back, back, back!” more times than a construction foreman guiding a reversing dump truck. Absolutely the field is filled with deserving candidates worthy of the honor to compete for the superfluous, superlative title of home run champion. The only problem is, National League captain missed a great opportunity to invite an unexpected participant; San Francisco Giants 2014 All-Star Madison Bumgarner.

With Bumgarner having pitched in Sunday’s first-half finale, he won’t be available to perform his duties in the Mid-Summer Classic Tuesday night, he’ll instead be replaced by teammate Tim Hudson. It’d certainly free him up for Monday Night’s fireworks display though, and here’s why he should be included.

Consider this blind sample:

Batter A – 13.33 at-bats per home run
Batter B – 16.81 at-bats per home run
Batter C – 27.46 at-bats per home run
Batter D – 14.76 at-bats per home run
Batter E – 19.05 at-bats per home run
Batter F – 28.58 at-bats per home run

The figures for batters B though F are this year’s National League Entrants in the home run derby Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Frazier and Yasiel Puig in that order. Subject A, the leader in long ball frequency amongst the above sample group, is Bumgarner. Over 40 at-bats this season, he has exited the park three times.

There are no doubts that Tulowitzki, NL leader in home runs (21, tied with Stanton) selected an entertaining senior circuit squad. Justin Morneau represents the veteran savvy, having won the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium after hitting four balls out of AT&T Park in the previous iteration. While other players were still adjusting to another season on April fourth, Stanton already showed his penchant for the tape-measure poke, launching the longest NL home run of the season an astounding 484 feet. Puig brings the flair, ranking fourth in the Majors in average distance per homer (417.3 feet) while Frazier brings the backstory. Tulowitzki selected Frazier based off a leadoff home run the Reds third basemen hit…for New Jersey in the Little League World Series. Surely, the Colorado shortstop couldn’t be accused of not bringing the best to Minneapolis.

That being said, Despite playing in the very homer-unfriendly AT&T Park (ranked 6th in the NL in home runs hit this season), Bumgarner has excelled at the big fly at home in 2014. Following Sunday’s grand slam, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a 387-footer off starter Matt Stites, the Giants All-star collected all three of his first-half dinger on the banks of McCovey Cove this season. None came cheap, with the average distance for MadBum blasts measuring in at 402 feet. That matches or is better than Morneau (402), Frazier (398.6) and Tulowitzki (398.4). Sure, it’s a small sample size, but it’s an impressive one no less, and one that started the train of though to invite the lefty-throwing, righty-hitting starter.

If a small statistical pool is troublesome, let’s shed some light on what Bumgarner has done with the bat in comparison to some of his teammates. The Hickory, NC native currently sits in seventh place amongst Giants hitters in offensive wins above replacement, ranking above Brandon Belt, Tyler Colvin and Brandon Hicks as well as five other position players with more at-bats than Bumgarner. In only 1/5th the numbers of opportunities of many of his teammates, Bumgarner and his .275 batting average and 12 runs batted in have proven he’s no slouch with the stick. Throw in that he’s pitched brilliantly, going 10-7 with a 3.47 earned run average and 127 punchouts over 128 innings.

While selecting a pitcher in the home run derby sounds outlandish in theory, in practice it would create quite a buzz for the event. No pitcher has ever participated in the event, a far more significant first than the change in format implemented this year. A move to segregated league brackets that will culminate in an AL bracket-winner vs NL bracket-winner final sounds mildly interesting for the sake of it being something new, but it still represents the same old Derby concept of mashers pummeling baseballs ad nauseum till someone emerges a victor.

Inserting a starting pitcher as a combatant into the fray would draw buzz. Fans would tune in, if not to watch with intrigue of what the seldom offensively-gifted could do, at least for the train wreck aspect. The fun of watching the Derby for some isn’t the amount of success the participants have, but rather the lack there of. Who didn’t have a laugh when Robinson Cano couldn’t clear the fence even once amidst a rousing round of jeers from those in attendance at Kauffman Stadium in the summer of 2012?

There are plenty of hurdles to even considering a pitcher for the annual laser show. First and foremost is the production from the position. Bumgarner is one of only seven NL pitchers with a homerun, and only Chicago’s Travis Wood has multiple jacks to join Madison. Bumgarner is also the only hurler with more than 10 RBIs this season meaning there’s a severe lack of offensive output league-wide from the NL’s ninth spot in the order. So forgive Tulo or any other future captain for not tabbing a starter to the team.

Dim positional offensive positivity aside, imagine the resistance a general manager and manager would offer. It’s hard enough to convince star hitters to take part for fear of ruining their swing for the second half. Now picture the long list of pitchers who have injured themselves over the years taken hacks at the plate. No front office would want to see their pitcher, whom they have invested millions of dollars in, injured in a meaningless exhibition for a skillset none to prevalent at the position with no consequence other than a hollow title.

But the All-star game isn’t about managers, or GMs, or the players to some degree. It’s about the fans, rewarding them with a chance to watch the best of the best, to dream about what an All-World outfield of Mike Trout, Bautista and Adam Jones. It’s about seeing the never-before-seen, the never-to-be-seen-again. Hopefully, one day, it’ll be about seeing a starting pitcher take his long ball hacks with the best of them in the Home Run Derby.