A's beat Blue Jays in 15 innings costing Cecil his rotation spot: Griffin
OAKLAND-It seems the Jays are forever playing just well enough to lose during this current winless streak which reached six games following a 5-4 extra-inning loss to the A's on Friday night at the Coliseum. The A's, baseball's hottest team since July 1, recorded walkoff victory No. 13 for the year, on a 15th inning run-scoring sacrifice fly by Coco Crisp. It was the A's second 15-inning game in four days. Lefthander Aaron Loup took the loss after the Jays' bullpen had thrown nine shutout innings.
The big news regarding the roster came following the loss. In an understandably subdued Jays' clubhouse, manager John Farrell announced that starting pitcher Brett Cecil had been optioned to AAA-Las Vegas and reliever Drew Carpenter had been designated for assignment. Replacing them in the roster, righthander Jesse Chavez and infielder Adeiny Hechavarria had been recalled from Vegas.
During the game, both third baseman Brett Lawrie and centre fielder Colby Rasmus suffered injuries that were labelled day-to-day by Farrell. Lawrie was called out on strikes leading off the game and aggravated a strained oblique that he had been receiving treatment for on the road trip. Rasmus strained his groin and played two more innings, finally being removed from the game by Farrell as a precautionary move in the 12th.
Farrell indicated that if Lawrie was unable to play on Saturday, that Hechavarria would be asked to play third base. He has never played the position.
At least, for the first time in a week, the Jays showed signs of life and the combativeness that had marked much of the first half of their season. The big blow for the Jays to tie the score came on a bolt from catcher Jeff Mathis, with two out and down to the last strike in the top of the ninth.
A's closer Ryan Cook struck out the first two men in the ninth, while holding a 4-1 lead. David Cooper singled and Moises Sierra pinch-ran. Rajai Davis then singled to centre. With one strike on Mathis, catcher Derek Norris whiffed on a high fastball that then struck umpire Manny Gonzalez in the mask. He ruled a foul tip, though replays showed Mathis' bat never came close. Farrell raced out to argue, but to no avail. Two pitches later, Mathis homered deep to centre field to tie it at 4-4. The A's were stunned.
The Jays were feisty and imaginative once the game was tied. Farrell even successfully utiized the five-man infield with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th inning. Davis came in to play the third base position, with two men on the left and three defenders on the right side of the infield with one out and the bases loaded. Righthander Brad Lincoln froze Josh Reddick with a strike three curveball and Brandon Moss then grounded out, with Yan Gomes making a good scoop out of the dirt on a tentative throw from Yunel Escobar to keep the game alive. Lincoln worked 3-1/3 shutout innings, giving way to Loup in the 13th.
In the 12th, the Jays had a solid chance to take the lead against A's righthander Sean Doolittle. With one out, Omar Vizquel singled. Rasmus sliced a drive into left that eluded Brandon Moss all the way to the wall, but Vizquel had hesitated between first and second, throwing the balletic rhythm of the play off as coach Brian Butterfield waved him around third base anyway and he was dead on a relay by Brandon Inge. With the hesitation, Butterfield should have held him at third with one out, but he was watching the ball in the corner and anticipating Vizquel would be farther along on the basepath.
The A's surely had seen the left/right splits against the Jays' lefthander Cecil. As such, manager Bob Melvin loaded eight righthanded bats into his order. Cecil had entered the game vs. the A's holding lefthanded hitters to a .152 average, while righties were batting a combined .293.
The 26-year-old was not horrible. He pitched five innings, allowing four runs on nine hits with a walk and a strikeout. He gave the Jays a slight scare in the second, when manager John Farrell and trainer George Poulis visited the mound to check on him. Cecil waved them away and continued.
The results were familiar. While the only lefthanded batter in the lineup, Josh Reddick was 1-for-2, with a sacrifice fly, the righthanded bats combined to hit .471, with eight hits in 17 at-bats. Righthanders are now batting .312.
It was Cecil's fifth straight start without a win as he tried to re-establish himself and keep his rotation spot. Meanwhile, the 29-year-old starter acquired from the Astros, J.A. Happ, had pitched in long relief, waiting anxously for a chance to show what he can do. That chance is at hand. Farrell announced that Happ will make his first Jays start on Thursday in Tampa against the Rays, in what would have been Cecil's turn.
“That's been part of discussions going forward as it relates to (Happ) when we look to take advantage of the skills of all of the pitchers that we have here, how we can best employ them,” Farrell had said prior to the game.
In his last five starts, Cecil worked 28 innings, allowing 18 earned runs, on 30 hits, with 13 walks and 26 strikeouts.
Another problem of concern Cecil has encountered in 2012 is the shut-down inning, wherein the Jays score a run and he is unable to follow with a shutout frame of his own. Such was the case in the fourth inning on Friday. Trailing 2-0, the Jays manufactured a run, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Davis driving in Kelly Johnson from third base. But, in the bottom of the inning, A's first-baseman Chris Carter led off with a long home run to left field to re-establish the A's two-run lead. That had happened too often with Cecil.
The additional painful news for the Jays on the injury front came at a time they already have 11 players on the disabled list. Following a first inning strikeout, third baseman Brett Lawrie was removed from the game, suffering tightness in the ribcage. He's 3-for-21 over the last six games.
The headline story coming into the game for the contending A's was the major-league debut of righthander Dan Straily. The 23-year-old was selected in the 24th round of the 2009 draft out of Marshall University. He was unranked in the Top 30 of the A's system by Baseball America, but shot up with stops at AA-Midland and AAA-Sacramento to become one of baseball's top pitching prospects.
“This is one heckuva story when you think about a 24th round pick who's dedicated himself to increasing his conditioning,” Farrell said before the game. “He's re-shaped his body and his performance has gone through the roof. To think three years ago you got a draft pick that is now considered the top pitching prospect in baseball, it's found gold.”
Straily struggled in the first inning, throwing 29 pitches, but the Jays failed to score, leaving runners at first and second. Abandoning runners in scoring position has been an issue for the Jays all during this current losing streak. The A's rookie Strailey went six innings, allowing just one run.
“In some cases we've expanded the strike zone,” Farrell explained of the Jays' continuing hitting woes without Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind. “We've overswung the bat early in the count. There's a couple of guys in our lineup that are pressing, trying to do more right now to pick up some of the slack because of the absence right now of some other hitters in our lineup.”
Meanwhile much-needed help for the starting rotation is not really on the immediate horizon, other than Happ replacing Cecil. On Friday, Brandon Morrow made his second minor-league start on an injury-rehab option.
Morrow worked three inning for A-Dunedin against Daytona, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. Morrow, who left his June 11 start with a strained left oblique, is slated to make his next two starts at Double-A New Hampshire, taking him at least to August 13, at which point he will be re-evaluated for readiness to re-join the Jays' rotation. Farrell suggested it might be two-and-a-half weeks before Morrow is ready. Happ, meanwhile, is ready right now.