Jays unable to close out A's
Toronto scores all runs in first, Accardo allows four in ninth
TORONTO -- With the Blue Jays clinging to a slim lead and closer Jeremy Accardo coming in to pitch the ninth inning, it looked as though Toronto would be able to steal a win from Oakland on Wednesday at Rogers Centre.
The Jays had dodged disaster all night long, allowing the A's to load the bases four times, yet escaping each situation relatively unharmed. Toronto tiptoed its way to a one-run advantage in the ninth inning, when Accardo hoped to seal a victory.
Instead, Oakland put together a late rally, taking advantage of an ill-advised throw by Toronto third baseman Marco Scutaro, and sending Accardo and the Blue Jays to a 6-3 loss -- a second disheartening defeat in as many days. Frustrating was the fact that Toronto came so close to avoiding that fate.
"We were in position to win," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But we were living on the edge. [The Oakland hitters] were putting the pressure on us all night."
Oakland continued to apply that pressure on the Jays (4-4) in the ninth, when Accardo hit A's leadoff hitter Travis Buck to begin the inning. A's second baseman Mark Ellis followed by drilling a pitch from Toronto's closer to the wall in right-center field for a game-changing triple, plating Buck and evening things up, 3-3.
"A hit batter leading off that inning, that's usually the kiss of death in this business," Gibbons said. "Especially late in the game like that."
Later in the inning, with runners on first and third with one out, Accardo (0-2) induced a chopper off the bat of Emil Brown. Scutaro sprinted to his left and fielded the ball, spinning to gather himself before making a throw. Instead of trying for a force out or an attempted double play at second base, Scutaro threw errantly in the direction of home plate, trying to stop Ellis from scoring the go-ahead run.
The baseball sailed well out of the reach of Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun, allowing Ellis to score and paving the way for two more runs for the A's, putting them ahead for good, 6-3. In the wake of Toronto's loss, Zaun admitted that he was not anticipating a throw from Scutaro in that situation.
"I really wasn't," Zaun said, "especially once the ball took [Scutaro] to his left, I really wasn't expecting it. Maybe he felt like he wasn't going to be able to turn two and he wanted to cut the run down."
"It wasn't really a routine grounder," he later added. "[Scutaro] coming home was the furthest thing from my mind. I was still standing behind the plate and hoping that we were going to get two right there."
Zaun might not have been expecting Scutaro to look toward the plate, but Scutaro said he had committed himself to throwing home once the ball left Brown's bat.
"The only way I was going to go to second was if there was a hard[-hit ball] to me," said Scutaro. "It would've been hard to turn a double play, so I just went home. Unfortunately, I made a bad throw.
"Those kind of plays are do or die."
The Blue Jays' loss marks the second straight game where Accardo gave up the lead in the ninth inning. On Tuesday, in an 8-8 game in the final frame, the right-hander allowed a two-out RBI triple to Oakland's Ryan Sweeney, sinking the Jays to a 9-8 loss.
With three of the Blue Jays' four losses this season coming at the hands of the bullpen, attention is being drawn to the return of closer B.J. Ryan, who could be back with the team at some point in the next homestand. With Ryan, who is coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, back in the fold, Accardo would likely slide into the team's setup role, providing the Jays with more depth.
Despite the last two ninth-inning collapses, Gibbons has not lost faith in Accardo.
"He proved to us last year what he can do," said Gibbons. "It happens. You don't give up on anybody. He's still going to be a key part of us this year.
"He's a very confident kid. He's good at letting things go."
Prior to Oakland's decisive rally in the ninth inning, the Blue Jays were able to maneuver their way out of multiple bases-loaded jams throughout the game. Starter Dustin McGowan, who logged five gutsy innings, escaped such a situation in the fifth inning, retiring three straight A's hitters with no outs and three runners on base.
That nearly allowed the three runs Toronto plated in the first inning off Oakland rookie Greg Smith to hold up as enough support. That was until the A's finally found a way to break through.
"We could've got blown out today," Zaun said. "But give a lot of credit to our pitchers for digging deep and keeping us in that game with the lead. It certainly could have been a lot worse than it was."
David Singh is an associate reporter with MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.