Richard Griffin, Baseball Columnist
OAKLAND—Over the course of an unusual 5-2 Wednesday matinee win at the Coliseum, the Jays played baseball in the first six innings as if they had never before seen the sun.
The no-decision for starter R.A. Dickey was a partial result of the high sky and four fielding errors, leaving the game tied 2-2. But in halting, stumbling fashion the Jays captured the rubber-game of the series against the first-place A’s, heading down the coast of California to play the Angels in a four-game set.
When it counted, the big men came up big for the Jays in extra innings. Leading off the 10th against former Jays right-hander Jesse Chavez, shortstop Jose Reyes singled off the pitcher’s leg. He advanced to second on a passed ball charged to Stephen Vogt, his second of the game, then scored on a groundball double just inside the first base bag by Jose Bautista.
“There’s a lot of hits and a lot of RBIs to that side of the field, especially when they throw the shift on (Bautista),” manager John Gibbons said. “Sometimes you’ve got to take those over there. He’s got the ability to do that. You can drive in some big runs doing it that way.”
The Jays added on a couple of insurance runs as Colby Rasmus slashed a bases-loaded groundball through a drawn-in infield to score a pair. Casey Janssen worked the ninth for the win. Brett Cecil earned his first career save. Cecil was still on an adrenaline high after the game as he prepared to pack the precious souvenir, the first-save game ball, into his equipment bag.
“It was awesome,” Cecil enthused. “I was hoping it would come to that, especially when Reyes got on second. I just got done throwing in the pen and it’s always in my head. I want to save this game. I want us to get the lead. I want to get out there, heart pounding and adrenaline and everything. That’s what I absolutely loved about it in college and the same thing about it today.”
Cecil became the fourth different Jays reliever to pick up a save this season and that isn’t even counting the veteran Darren Oliver or the soon-to-be returning Sergio Santos. They are deep.
“It makes it a little easier for (Gibbons) when you have guys like we have in the pen,” Cecil said. “Like Janssen said, if you’re a reliever and you don’t want to close games then you don’t belong here. We had three guys and he could have gone to either one of them and we’d have been fine. He knows that. We know that. The other team knows that. It’s one of our biggest advantages for sure.”
The strange happenings began early. In the second inning, Brett Lawrie camped under a foul pop, then bailed to the dugout side as if he had just seen a piano falling from the sky. Three innings later, on yet another popup, this one directly behind the mound, Lawrie raced over from his position, but stumbled and fell over Dickey who had himself fallen backwards onto the ground behind the mound. Dickey was charged with the error, one guesses two minutes for interference.
“I just tripped over the rosin bag,” Dickey explained. “And I heard Brett call for it late or I would have gotten out of the way, only I was on my way falling down, so that was kind of tough. Just to only give up two runs on a day where we had four errors is a real positive.”
Later that same inning, with a routine chance to squeeze the third out, second baseman Maicer Izturis saw, or didn’t see, a high pop fly glance off his glove, allowing the tying run to score. Yet somehow despite the four miscues in six innings, the Jays remained tied 2-2 heading to the seventh.
The turning point in the game may have come in the fourth inning. The A’s loaded the bases with nobody out on two hits and an error and Dickey escaped still clinging to a 2-1 lead.
“I got a good groundball but we were unable to turn the double play or get an out,” Dickey said. “I knew if I just kept making good pitches and throwing strikes — it’s not like they were covering the ball — I liked my chances. I just needed to throw strikes and sure enough I was able to get out of an inning. That could have been the climax to the game there if that gets out of hand.”
The A’s opened the scoring in the third inning on the first of the Jays’ embarrassing quartet of errors. On a single to right, Bautista unleashed an ill-conceived throw that sailed over Lawrie’s head and one-hopped the rolled up tarp, ending up in the seats. He redeemed himself later.
The Jays responded with a pair of runs in the fourth. Lawrie singled home the tying run with two out and then a passed ball scored Rasmus from third. After the A’s tied it on errors, the score remained knotted as both bullpens dominated into extra innings. The Jays are still seven games below .500 and 2-1 on the road trip with seven games remaining.