TORONTO -- The A's drew up quite possibly one of their ugliest games of the season in Toronto on Sunday, easily one of their most "excruciating," manager Bob Melvin said in summation, and won it.
"Never a dull moment," Melvin said. "We're finding a way to win games, but it wasn't pretty."
In the early stages of the 6-4 victory, which kept them within one game of the Rangers in the AL West, Melvin's A's looked out of sync yet again, their offense uninspiring, their pitching spotty, their defense troubling. An all-too-familiar storyline since the break, really.
Even in the final stages, after gaining a three-run lead, a win seemed far out of reach, with a laboring Grant Balfour needing 37 pitches to close out a dramatic, drawn-out ninth inning to seal the deal and give Melvin his 700th career victory.
"That was horrible today, no doubt about it," said Balfour, who gave up a run and loaded the bases before getting Jose Reyes to ground out. "But I got the job done, and that's the main thing, and we won the ballgame. All I can say is that the guys were great. They came back. It was a great effort by our guys."
Balfour, who hadn't walked more than two in an outing all season entering the day, issued three en route to notching his 30th save -- the same amount he had tallied in his previous 20 outings combined. He didn't have his slider, and "he was kind of yanking the ball a little bit," catcher Stephen Vogt said.
"I was frustrated there," Balfour said. "It was one of those days. I was fighting it, I'm not gonna lie. I was struggling."
As a result, he was stalling, too -- even more so than usual, and the fans didn't like it, showering him with boos in between cheers for his mistakes, the last a walk to Rajai Davis with two outs to load the bases for Reyes.
"You've got the tying run on second and Jose Reyes at the plate. It's a situation the Blue Jays want to be in, and not us," said Vogt. "You have to bear down to get a good hitter like that, and that's big for us, big for us to win a game that R.A. Dickey started."
It took some time for the A's to break through against Dickey, finally jumping on the knuckleballer for three runs in the sixth, highlighted by Brandon Moss' two-run homer, for a 3-1 lead.
Toronto proceeded to tie the game with two runs off A's righty A.J. Griffin in the bottom half of the frame, but the A's took the lead right back in the eighth with three more runs off lefty reliever Darren Oliver.
Alberto Callaspo's two-run double got the job done, with pinch-hitter Chris Young adding on by way of an RBI base hit.
It was an encouraging sight for an A's team that started the day 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, their woes in such situations magnified in the fifth, when they put runners at the corners with no outs only to strand them.
The late offense also made it easier to forgive a couple of early defensive miscues in a messy second frame, when Moss allowed Adam Lind to reach base on a fielding error and Eric Sogard later let him score on a throwing error.
Toronto didn't make it any easier in the ensuing innings on Griffin, who walked a career-high six -- including one intentional -- in 5 2/3 innings.
"I couldn't find my release point really and just tried to battle through," said Griffin. "The offense did a good job picking me up there. It's a good team win."
"The defense wasn't great early on, then we got some key hits and played a little bit better," Melvin said, " and the last inning was obviously a bit of a battle, but we end up getting what is most important."