Jays take advantage of mistakes in win
Toronto completes four-game sweep with clutch production
TORONTO -- When Cito Gaston took over as manager of the Blue Jays on June 20, one of his top priorities was improving his club's offense and ensuring it took advantage of any mistakes made by the opposition.
While that goal still is a work in progress, he definitely liked what he saw from his club on Thursday night.
The Jays' offense capitalized on two miscues in the field and a wild performance by an Athletics reliever en route to a 6-4 victory and four-game series sweep of Oakland at Rogers Centre.
"We preach that here," Gaston said. "We try to make guys a little more aggressive in the strike zone, and if you make a mistake with a Major League team and give them four outs as opposed to three outs ... you're going to get hurt, and you've got to take advantage of that."
The Jays did just that in the bottom of the fourth inning off Athletics starter Justin Duchscherer. With two outs and one man on base, left fielder Adam Lind hit a grounder up the middle. It was fielded by diving shortstop Bobby Crosby, who made a perfect toss to Mark Ellis at second base in an attempt to record the forceout. Ellis, though, couldn't find the base with his foot, and as a result, Rod Barajas slid in safely to extend the inning.
Ellis' troubles continued during the very next at-bat. Jays designated hitter Matt Stairs hit a chopper toward the second baseman. Ellis ran in to make the play, only to see the ball take a weird bounce and get past him. The inning was extended yet again and brought third baseman Scott Rolen to the plate with the bases loaded.
Rolen came through with a hard single up the middle to score Toronto's first two runs of the game. The next batter, John McDonald, continued the rally with a scorching double down the left-field line to plate two more runs.
"It takes a little bit of a load off my shoulders," said McDonald, who went 2-for-3 with a walk to record just his second multihit game of the season. "I've been pressing real hard just to get one hit. ... It was a big day for me, but I think, personally, just getting two hits and not being someone who goes 1-for-4 or 0-for-3, I can take a lot of positives out of today."
While Toronto's first rally of the evening was because of the Athletics' miscues in the field, its winning rally was because of Oakland's troubles on the mound.
With the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the sixth, Oakland reliever Jerry Blevins (1-2) hit Lind with a pitch on his right forearm. The left-hander then walked two of the next three batters he faced to bring second baseman Joe Inglett to the plate with one out and the bases loaded.
After falling behind 0-2, Inglett was hit in the lower back by a slow curveball. That scored Lind with the eventual winning run. Outfielder Brad Wilkerson followed with a sacrifice fly to center to extend Toronto's lead to two, with all of the runs in the inning coming without a hit by the Jays' offense.
Toronto's bats made a winner out of starter A.J. Burnett even though early on it appeared as though he was in store for a short night. The right-hander surrendered three runs in the second inning, including a two-run homer off the bat of first baseman Daric Barton.
After Burnett followed Barton's at-bat by allowing a single to catcher Rob Bowen, Gaston called time and went to the mound to have a conversation with his pitcher.
"I just thought that he was a little bit out of rhythm," Gaston said. "Maybe we could speed his rhythm up a little bit by giving his signs a little bit quicker."
The move paid immediate dividends. Burnett retired the next four batters he faced and would allow just one more run for the rest of his start.
Gaston making trips to the mound has been a frequent occurrence since he was put in charge. It's a stark contrast from that of his predecessor, John Gibbons, who usually left the mound visits to pitching coach Brad Arnsberg unless he was going to make a call to the bullpen.
"Personally, I like to hear it come from myself rather than telling the pitching coach to go out and do that," Gaston said. "When he goes out, he pretty much is going to say what he needs to say. When I go out there, I'm going to say what I need to say and I thought that was the time to go out and tell him."
Burnett finished with four earned runs on seven hits while striking out six over six innings of work. With the victory, he passes Roy Halladay for most wins on the Jays' staff with 14 and also gave Toronto its seventh sweep of the season.
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.