Scoring at a premium for badly slumping Blue Jays
While the Oakland Athletics broke out of their minor rut, the Toronto Blue Jays remain stuck in a lengthy rough patch.
With one of their top pitching prospects set to make his major-league debut, the A's look to hand the visiting Blue Jays a season-high sixth consecutive loss Friday night.
Bartolo Colon pitched eight scoreless innings and Josh Reddick hit a two-run homer Thursday as Oakland (57-48) beat Toronto 4-1 to avoid a third straight defeat. Leading the American League wild-card race, the A's had won 19 of 23 before dropping two in a row to Tampa Bay prior to this series.
Toronto (51-54), meanwhile, matched a season high with a fifth straight loss. Playing without injured regulars Jose Bautista (wrist), Adam Lind (back) and J.P. Arencibia (hand), the Blue Jays have been outscored 24-8 during that skid.
"We're in a stretch where runs are at a premium," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "It's difficult to string hits together right now."
The Blue Jays, who have not lost six straight since a nine-game skid May 19-27, 2009, hope to get back on track against highly touted Oakland right-hander Dan Straily. A fourth-round pick of the A's in 2009, Straily recorded a whopping 175 strikeouts while going 8-6 with a 2.60 earned-run average in 22 starts between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento this season.
He will be the fifth rookie pitcher to get a start for Oakland this season.
"I think we're all excited to watch him pitch," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "Guys like that you find a way to get into the rotation.
"I've seen the video, I've seen the numbers and everybody is real excited. Today will be a very good day because of it — a lot of hype and rightfully so."
The A's would like to score early for Straily as they did Thursday with three in the third inning. Mired in an 0-for-21 slump, Reddick singled in the first inning and highlighted the third with his third homer in six games against Toronto.
Oakland's Brandon Inge delivered a run-scoring single in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
The A's, however, are likely to be without outfielder-designated hitter Seth Smith, who strained his left hamstring in the series opener.
Edwin Encarnacion was 0 for 11 in his previous three games before recording two hits Thursday for the Blue Jays, who are 5½ games out of the final wild-card spot. Encarnacion, who has 28 homers and 72 runs batted in, is 5 for 10 in his last three games versus Oakland.
The Blue Jays have struggled of late to support scheduled starter Brett Cecil (2-4, 5.56), who has lost three consecutive starts despite posting a decent 3.86 ERA. His teammates have totalled two runs with him on the mound in those contests.
He gave up a three-run homer and a season-high four walks in 6 2/3 innings of a 4-1 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
"I'm not going to change anything," said Cecil, who has allowed a home run in each of his last four starts.
"Just keep doing what I'm doing. Wins will come."
The Blue Jays also have provided Cecil a combined two runs of support in his last three starts versus Oakland, and he's lost them all despite having a 3.15 ERA. The left-hander yielded two runs and stuck out eight in six innings of a 7-2 loss to the A's on July 24.