08/29/07 9:29 PM ET
Four taters not enough in loss to A's
Late rally, Halladay's effort fall short in extra innings
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
That's saying something for the Jays, who have been a completely different ballclub when their plane touches down outside of Canada. So, after Oakland handed Toronto a 5-4 defeat in 11 innings on Wednesday, the Jays wanted to focus on the overall showing during their seven-game swing through Angel Stadium and McAfee Coliseum.
At the latter, Toronto (67-66) took the first two games of the three-game set against Oakland, representing the first time the Blue Jays won back-to-back road games since early June. Including the previous series in Anaheim, Toronto finished with a 4-3 record, which is its first winning mark away from home since the first week of the season.
"We did what we wanted to do -- we won on the road," Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill said. "We came in against both teams -- teams that have been swinging the bats -- and we took some games away from them. All in all, it was a good series and a good road trip."
The irony of the seven-game journey was that the Jays lost both times that ace Roy Halladay took the mound. That includes Wednesday's loss, when the right-hander limited the A's (66-69) to four runs on seven hits, despite matching a career high with six walks. Halladay spun nine innings, but took a no-decision when the clubs carried a 4-4 deadlock into extra frames.
"You're trying to stay aggressive," Halladay said. "But it makes it hard when you're adding baserunners, especially against a team like this. They're fighting balls off and they found holes. When they do that, and you're putting guys on base, it's not a good mix."
Halladay issued four free passes in the opening three innings, helping the A's to four early runs. The Jays began their rally in the fourth inning, when Hill sent a 2-2 pitch from left-hander Lenny DiNardo over the left-field wall for a solo homer. An inning later, Toronto right fielder Alex Rios drilled an additional solo shot to pull the Jays within two.
Halladay was in line for the loss when Oakland turned the game over to closer Huston Street in the ninth inning. Nursing a 4-2 advantage, Street yielded a solo home run to Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay, and then gave up the game-tying blast to Matt Stairs, who connected for his 12th career pinch-hit homer.
"We showed some heart today," Halladay said. "We put ourselves in a hole early, and we found a way to give ourselves a chance. It's nice to see that, especially on the road. We battled back."
Not far enough, though.
After Street escaped further damage, the contest continued into the 11th, when Jason Frasor (1-4) was on the mound for Toronto. The reliever retired two quick outs in the inning before giving up a double to Marco Scutaro.
That prompted Toronto manager John Gibbons to turn to left-hander Scott Downs, who jogged in from the bullpen to face A's third baseman Jack Hannahan. The left-handed batter sliced a 3-1 offering into left-center field, providing ample time for Scutaro to cross home plate with the game-winning run.
With that, Toronto's road record slipped to 28-39, and the club missed an opportunity to gain ground on American League Wild Card-leading Seattle. So, with reality sinking in about their dwindling playoff hopes, the Blue Jays wanted to squeeze as many positives as they could out of the latest venture away from Rogers Centre.
"All seven games we played good ballgames," Gibbons said. "We played some good defense and the hitting came alive. We came back and put a few runs on the board the last couple nights here, and a couple nights in Anaheim."
The four homers Toronto launched on Wednesday -- the first for Overbay and Rios since May 28 and July 23, respectively -- matched a season high for a single game. The Jays, who had six homers in 16 road games before the latest trip, finished with six long balls in the past seven games.
During the stops in Anaheim and Oakland, the Blue Jays also posted a .302 average with runners in scoring position. That's a considerable upgrade over the .269 mark with RISP Toronto has for the season, putting them 10th in the AL in that category. Then again, the Jays went 0-for-18 with RISP in the three losses on the trip.
"We finally started getting some runs for our pitchers," Hill said. "In the past couple weeks, it hasn't seemed like we've given them much run support. Just to be able to walk away and have them say, 'Good job, guys,' that was nice."
So the Jays were happy with the way the trip turned out. Still, that kind of moral victory doesn't make up for the fact that Toronto has slipped in the standings.
"Overall, it was a good trip," Halladay said, "but you always look at what you might've got out of here with."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.